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WHO: Subvariants fueling COVID rises in more than 50 countries

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) today warned that rising COVID-19 cases are creating a volatile situation, posing the most risk for countries with low vaccination coverage.

The United States is one of the countries with rising cases, with hospitalizations now showing a small increase, according to the latest data.

Concerns outlined ahead of global summit

At a briefing today, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, the WHO's director-general, said the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are driving South Africa's surge, with the BA.2 subvariant dominant across the world and COVID-19 cases rising in more than 50 nations.

Relatively high population immunity from vaccination or previous infection are so far keeping hospitalizations and deaths at a lower levels than previous surges. "But this is not guaranteed for places where vaccination coverage is low."

He said South African scientists are pushing more vaccination to blunt the impact of the next pandemic wave. Along with saving lives and protecting health systems, immunization has the potential to minimize long COVID, which can be devastating for individuals, communities, and economies, Tedros added.

The Global Summit on COVID-19 coming up on May 12 is another opportunity to prepare for what comes next with the pandemic, which could include a variant that evades immunity, transmits more easily, or causes more severe disease.

In a separate statement, the WHO commended the United States, Belize, Germany, Indonesia, and Senegal for bringing governments together for the latest summit, which it hopes will lead to concrete commitments about vaccination and other measures to boost health security.

It said the ACT Accelerator is making progress on its plan to address health

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