World Health Organisation

New WHO group may be last chance to find virus origins

It has nominated 26 experts to join the body, the Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of Novel Pathogens (Sago).

More than a year-and-a-half since the virus was detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the question of how it first emerged remains unclear.

The team will consider if the virus jumped from animals to humans in Wuhan markets or leaked in a lab accident.

China has strongly refuted the second theory.

WHO renames UK and other variants with Greek letters

From now on the WHO will use Greek letters to refer to variants first detected in countries like the UK, South Africa and India.

The UK variant for instance is labelled as Alpha, the South African Beta, and the Indian as Delta.

The WHO said this was to simplify discussions but also to help remove some stigma from the names.

Earlier this month the Indian government criticised the naming of variant B.1.617.2 - first detected in the country last October - as the "Indian variant", though the WHO had never officially labelled it as such.

Delay child vaccinations and share jabs with Covax, says WHO

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday urged countries to supply more vaccines to the global fair-access scheme Covax.

The international distribution of Covid vaccines remains vastly uneven.

Since the first vaccines were approved in December, wealthier countries have bought up most of the supply.

Many are racing to vaccinate as much of their population as possible.

Covid: Serious failures in WHO and global response, report finds

The panel, set up by the World Health Organization, said the combined response of the WHO and global governments was a "toxic cocktail".

The WHO should have declared a global emergency earlier than it did, its report said, adding that without urgent change the world was vulnerable to another major disease outbreak.

More than 3.3 million people around the world have now died of Covid.

While the US and Europe are beginning to ease restrictions and resume some aspects of pre-pandemic life, the virus is still devastating parts of Asia.

Pacific countries press ahead with AstraZeneca rollout

That is despite several European countries and Australia limiting its use because of safety concerns.

In Australia, the Pfizer vaccine is now the preferred option for people under 50, Britain is offering an alternative for those under 30, while France and Belgium recommend AstraZeneca be given to those 55 and over.

European regulators said earlier this month they had found a possible link between AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine and a rare blood clotting problem that led to a small number of deaths.

Global Covid-19 infections rise for fourth consecutive week, deaths level off

The number of new deaths from the coronavirus levelled off after a six-week decrease, with just over 60,000 new deaths reported.

Europe and the Americas continued to account for nearly eight in 10 of all cases and deaths, while the only region to report a decline in fatalities was the Western Pacific, down nearly a third, compared to the previous week.

Infections rose notably in South East Asia, the Western Pacific, Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, according to the World Health Organisation’s Weekly Epidemiological Update.

WHO warns of 'catastrophic moral failure'

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was not fair for younger, healthy people in richer nations to get injections before vulnerable people in poorer states.

He said over 39 million vaccine doses had been given in 49 richer states - but one poor nation had only 25 doses.

Meanwhile, both the WHO and China were criticised for their Covid response.

An independent panel commissioned by the WHO said the UN public health body should have declared an international emergency earlier, and also rapped China for not taking public health measures sooner.

WHO concerned at ‘growing perception’ COVID pandemic is passing

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists at the regular Geneva briefing that progress on vaccines, in recent days, “gives us all a lift, and we can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

He praised the United Kingdom’s emergency authorisation for the Pfizer/BioNTech rollout which is due to begin next week, describing it as “an important scientific step for the world”.

WHO worried COVID ‘amnesia’ will lead to another pandemic

“I have seen the amnesia that seems to descend upon the world after a traumatic event, and that’s understandable,” Mike Ryan told a briefing in Geneva.

“But if we do this again like we did after SARS, like we did after H5N1, like we did after H1N1 pandemic, if we continue to ignore the realities of what emerging and dangerous pathogens can do to our civilization, then we are likely to experience the same or worse again within our lifetimes,” he said.

Critical mental health services disrupted by pandemic, says WHO

In its latest survey, the WHO found demand for mental health services was increasing as problems with bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear mounted.

Mental health services in the region were chronically underfunded before the pandemic, it said, with less than 2 percent of national health budgets allocated to the sector.

But now, things had gotten worse, with most countries recording an increase in need and a severe disruption to what limited services are offered.