Global COVID cases are declining as the CDC expands the order of travel masks

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest pandemic assessments that global COVID-19 cases have been declining for the third week in a row, with deaths falling to the level at the start of the pandemic.

However, at today’s briefing, WHO officials called on countries not to relinquish their vigilance, as several cities are reporting sharp increases and some – such as the United States – are seeing the first signs of new rise.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today extended the order for masks for public transportation by 2 weeks, citing fears of an increase in cases.

Worldwide cases, both deaths are declining

In his latest weekly update about the pandemic, the WHO said the number of cases fell by 24% last week compared to the previous week, with all regions reporting a drop in cases.

Of the approximately 7 million cases reported last week, the five countries with the highest number of reported cases are South Korea, Germany, France, Vietnam and Italy. Deaths fell by 18%, with the most reported from the United States.

Of the virus samples sequenced over the last 30 days, 99.2% were Omicron variants. Among the Omicron subvariants, the WHO said it was monitoring BA.4 and BA.5, which have mutations that could contribute to immune leakage. He states that both have an S-gene outage, which helps distinguish them from the more dominant BA.2 and is useful for monitoring proliferation. These two subvariants have been identified in several countries and are being evaluated.

At today’s WHO briefingTedros CEO Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said some countries were still seeing a serious increase in cases putting pressure on hospitals. And he warned that the capacity to monitor COVID-19 trends is at stake as countries limit virus testing.

Call for reinforced response plans

In this context, the WHO COVID-19 Emergency Committee met for the eleventh time this week to review the latest developments and fine-tune its interim recommendations.

Emergency committees usually meet every 3 months or more often as needed. The group’s last meeting was in mid-January.

The WHO Emergency Committee informed about it at today’s briefing concluded that the situation of COVID-19 still requires a Public Health Emergency of International Importance (PHEIC), with experts adding one new recommendation and modifying their previous recommendation. In a new recommendation, the group urged countries to strengthen their national response to COVID-19 with updated preparedness and response plans based on the different ways in which a pandemic could manifest itself, as set out in the latest WHO response plan.

As for the emergency committee’s assessments, Tedros said one of the messages you would take home was that countries should not slow down and now is the time to work even harder to save lives. He added that the emphasis should be on fair access not only to vaccines but also to treatment and testing.

“Diagnosing at-risk patients early enough for new antivirals to be effective is essential and should be available to everyone and everywhere,” Tedros said.

In other global developments:

  • As cases in China increase, especially in Shanghai, President Xi Jinping said today, according to Reuters, that the country must continue with strict control and prevention measures on COVID-19. Blockades and other measures have led to supply chain problems and hampered Chinese and global economies. China today reported 27,920 new cases, of which 26,420 asymptomatic. Shanghai accounted for 79% of symptomatic cases and 95% of asymptomatic cases.
  • Italian National Institutes of Health today estimated that the COVID-19 vaccination halved the number of deaths in the country. A study conducted from January 2021 to January 2022 indicated that vaccination prevented 150,000 deaths and 8 million diseases during this period. The researchers also said that vaccinations prevented 500,000 hospitalizations and more than 55,000 intensive care unit admissions.

The CDC is expanding the order of travel masks

Today, the CDC said the masks would remain on planes and trains for another 2 weeks as the country faced a slight increase in cases caused by sub-variant BA.2. CDC Nowcast estimates that BA.2 now accounts for 85.9% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States.

The federal mandate to camouflage planes and trains was due to expire on April 18, but was extended to May 3.

IN media statementThe CDC said: “The CDC Mask Order remains in place, while the CDC assesses the potential impact of an increase in cases on major diseases, including hospitalizations and deaths, and the capacity of the health system.” TSA [Transportation Security Administration] extend the safety directive and the emergency amendment by 15 days. “

The CDC also announced today that it is improving its Travel Health Notice system for international destinations as of April 18.

Level 4 for COVID-19 will now only be issued to countries with “rapidly escalating trajectories or extremely high numbers of cases, emerging concerns or collapsing medical infrastructure”.

“Thanks to this new configuration, passengers will have a more functional warning of when they should not travel to a particular destination (level 4), regardless of the vaccination status, until we have a clearer understanding of the COVID-19 situation in that destination,” the CDC said.

The United States reported 27,853 new COVID-19 cases and 561 deaths yesterday, according to Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. The 7-day average of new daily cases is 31,276 with 516 daily deaths. Washington Post tracker.

CIDRAP news reporter Stephanie Soucheray contributed to this story.

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