The World Health Organization's technical lead on COVID-19 on Wednesday said that new variants of the virus did not change the severity of the disease.
"We have not detected a change in severity," Maria Van Kerkhove responded to Anadolu's question during a press briefing in Geneva. She was referring to variants such as BA.2.86 (Pirola), XBB.1.15, EG.5 (Eris) and XBB.1.16.
"The good news is that our countermeasures work," Kerkhove said.
She noted that the current COVID-19 vaccines remain "safe and effective" to prevent severe virus-related diseases and deaths.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was part of the same press briefing, also drew attention to the concerning trends of COVID-19 as winter approaches in the northern hemisphere.
Tedros said both hospitalizations and emergency (ICU) admissions have increased in the past 28 days, particularly in the Americas and Europe, while vaccination levels among the most at-risk groups remain "worryingly low."
Two-thirds of the global population has received a complete primary series, but only one-third has received an additional or booster dose, he added.
“COVID-19 may no longer be the acute crisis it was two years ago, but that does not mean we can ignore it,” he said. “Countries invested so much in building their systems to respond to COVID-19. We urge countries to sustain those systems, to ensure people can be protected, tested, and treated for COVID and other infectious threats.”
Tedros underlined that WHO is working closely with Libya’s Ministry of Health to assess the needs on the ground after the Sept. 10 floods, provide supplies, and restore primary healthcare services, especially for routine immunization and mental health.
“Only a third of hospitals and half of the primary health centers remain fully functional due to structural damage to health facilities and hospitals, lack of medicine and medical equipment, and shortages of health workers,” he said.
He added that affected communities are facing the threat of mosquito- and water-borne diseases, and acute mental distress.
To support this effort, he said, the WHO has requested $11 million and disbursed $2.3 million from the Contingency Fund for Emergencies.
According to the WHO, more than 4,000 people are dead, while over 8,500 people are missing, and the number of displaced has passed 30,000.
Rescue teams continue search operations in the sea for survivors of the Sept. 10 floods in eastern Libya, according to officials.