WHO meet backs sequencing surge to combat virus variants

WHO meet backs sequencing surge to combat virus variants

News24
16 Jan 2021, 04:42 GMT+10

  • The WHO emergency committee has come out against countries requiring proof of vaccination from incoming international travellers.
  • The committee has also called for a global expansion of genomic sequencing and sharing of data on the recently-discovered variants.
  • It urged WHO to develop a system for naming new variants that avoids geographical markers.

The World Health Organisation’s emergency committee called Friday for globally-ramped up coronavirus sequencing studies in order to combat troubling new variants.

It also came out against countries requiring proof of vaccination from incoming international travellers, in a meeting brought forward by two weeks to discuss the emerging strains of the virus behind the Covid-19 pandemic.

The recently-discovered variants can only be identified by sequencing their genetic code – an analysis that is not possible everywhere.

“On variants, (the committee) called for a global expansion of genomic sequencing and sharing of data, along with greater scientific collaboration to address critical unknowns,” the WHO said in a statement after the virtual meeting.

“The committee urged WHO to develop a standardised system for naming new variants that avoids geographical markers”, in a bid to avoid stigmatisation.

On travel, the committee advised countries to implement coordinated, evidence-based measures for safe travel.

Given that the impact of vaccines in reducing transmission is yet unknown, and the current availability of vaccines is too limited, the WHO committee also recommended that countries do not require proof of vaccination from incoming travellers.

It normally gathers every three months but the WHO brought the meeting forward to discuss the mutations.

It is the WHO International Health Regulations emergency committee’s sixth meeting on Covid-19.

Following its second meeting on 30 January last year, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the outbreak discovered in China constituted a public health emergency of international concern – the agency’s highest level of alert.

The latest meeting comes as global deaths approache

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