Countries must enhance surveillance, sequencing and assess the risk of importation through international travel based on updated information on circulating variants and response capacities, and take measures accordingly, World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Southeast Asia Region office said on Saturday, stating that countries in the region should be vigilant of the new VoC [variant of concern] Omicron.
“Though COVID-19 cases have been declining in most countries of our region, the surge in cases elsewhere in the world and confirmation of a new Variant of Concern, is a reminder of the persisting risk and the need for us to continue to do our best to protect against the virus and prevent its spread. At no cost should we let our guards down,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director,WHO Southeast Asia Region.
She added that comprehensive and tailored public health and social measures to prevent transmission must continue.
“The earlier the protective measures are implemented, the less restrictive they would need to be in order to be effective. The more COVID-19 circulates, the more opportunities the virus will have to change and mutate, and the pandemic will last longer,” Dr. Singh warned.
According to a release issued by the WHO South-East Asia Region, the most important thing people must do is reduce their risk of exposure to the virus — wear a mask and wear it properly covering nose and mouth; keep distance; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cover cough and sneeze; and get vaccinated.
“As of today 31% of the Region’s population is fully vaccinated, 21% partially vaccinated while nearly 48%, or about a billion people are yet to receive even a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Singh, adding that they continue to be at risk of contracting severe disease due to the virus and spreading it further.
Even after getting vaccinated, everyone must continue to take precautions to prevent becoming infected and to infect someone else who may get severely affected by the virus.
“We must not forget that the pandemic is far from over. As societies open up, we should not get complacent. Festivities and celebrations must include all precautionary measures. Crowds and large gatherings must be avoided. The current situation warrants further stepping up efforts on all fronts,” the regional director said.