COVID-19 variants could impact health systems, says World Health Officer


Copenhagen, Covid-19 variants discovered in several countries across the world, bear the potential to have a devastating impact on health facilities under stress, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe has warned.

“Variants are a common phenomenon and are not in themselves dangerous, but they can be if they change the behaviour of the virus; therefore, we need to monitor these developments closely,” quotedted Richard Pebody, who leads the epidemiology and surveillance response on Covid-19 in WHO/Europe, said in a statement issued here on Friday.

The warning came as the highly transmissible variant SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 originally found in Britian, has spreads to 30 countries in the European Region, with 22,503 cases reported as of January 22.

According to the statement, many of the 30 countries project that the VOC 202012/01 might become dominant in the coming weeks, outnumbering non-variant cases of the coronavirus.

“Higher transmissibility does not mean a variant transmits in a different way, rather the variant just spreads better… If this causes our health-care systems to become overwhelmed and less able to cope, more people could be at risk of dying from the virus,” said Catherine Smallwood, who leads the Covid-19 response team at WHO Europe Office.

The WHO has called upon countries in the region to redouble their efforts and increase research in national laboratories in response to the inherent dangers current and newly discovered variants will present in the future.

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“Countries need to increase sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 viral isolates and report them. WHO also urges continuing and redoubling all of the basic public health and social measures that are known to work, including testing, isolating and treating cases, contact tracing, and quarantine for contacts of cases,” the statement added.

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