GENEVA/ZURICH – The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday advised against any contentment in the COVID-19 death rate, relating to the rising number of cases, mortality would also rise.
Increased cases are hitting 100,000 daily in Europe. Nearly 20,000 infections were reported in Britain, while Italy, Switzerland, and Russia were among nations with record case numbers.
While deaths worldwide have dropped to around 5,000 per day from April’s top surpassing 7,500, Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, stated caseloads were increasing in intensive care units.
“Mortality increases always lag behind increasing cases by a couple of weeks,” Swaminathan said during a WHO social media event. “We shouldn’t be complacent that death rates are coming down.”
Beyond 38 million people have been confirmed infected globally, and 1.1 million have already died.
Notwithstanding the global push for a COVID-19 vaccine, with dozens in clinical trials and hopes for initial vaccinations this year, Swaminathan emphasized his doubts with the efficiency of quick, mass shots.
Two candidates from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca’s U.S. trial are paused on safety concerns while manufacturing billions of doses of an eventual successful vaccine will be a colossal challenge demanding hard decisions about who gets inoculated first.
“Most people agree, it’s starting with health care workers, and front-line workers, but even there, you need to define which of them are at highest risk, and then the elderly, and so on,” Swaminathan said.
“A healthy young person might have to wait until 2022.”
The WHO has said letting infection spread to achieve “herd immunity” is unethical and would cause unnecessary deaths. It urges hand-washing, social distancing, masks, and — when unavoidable, limited and targeted restrictions on movements — to control disease spread.
“People talk about herd immunity. We should only talk about it in the context of a vaccine,” Swaminathan said. “You need to vaccinate at least 70 percent of people … to really break transmission.”