The head of the World Health Organization says it’s important to step up genomic sequencing worldwide to ensure that new variants of the coronavirus are detected as the pandemic enters its second year.
New variants detected in Britain and South Africa that appear to be more infectious have caused concern and triggered new travel restrictions this month.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at an online news conference Monday from Geneva that “there will be setbacks and new challenges in the year ahead — for example new variants of COVID-19 and helping people who are tired of the pandemic continue to combat it.”
He said that the WHO is working closely with scientists across the world to “better understand any and all changes to the virus” and their impact.
Tedros said he wanted to “underscore the importance of increasing genomic sequencing capacity worldwide” and of sharing information with the U.N. health agency and other countries. He said that “only if countries are looking and testing effectively will you be able to pick up variants and adjust strategies to cope.”
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Trump has signed a massive COVID-19 relief bill for Americans but his foot-dragging has caused a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions.
— Virus deaths in Germany top 30,000; lockdown may be extended past Jan. 10.
— British hospitals are getting overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.
— A large study of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate made by Novavax Inc. is getting underway in the U.S.
— AstraZeneca’s chief says researchers believe its vaccine will be effective against a new variant of the virus driving a rapid surge in infections in Britain.
— China sentences former lawyer who reported virus news to four years in prison.
— Pacific islands work to counter virus-induced food shortages by promoting gardens.