David Nabarro, WHO’s Special Envoy for Covid, has warned against comparing Covid to influenza
The World Health Organization today warned against comparing Covid with the flu – a few days after the British government said it intended to treat the two viruses equally.
David Nabarro, WHO’s special envoy for Covid, said the comparisons were irresponsible because they suggested the coronavirus ‘suddenly became incredibly weak’.
He told Sky News: ‘It can also mutate and form variants and we have seen more but we know there are more not far away.
“So quite frankly, we are not saying that this should be considered as the flu or something else – it is a new virus and we should continue to treat it as if it is full of surprises, very ugly and quite cunning.”
The official urged managers to ‘stay focused on the job’ as he claimed we were only at ‘halfway’ of the pandemic.
Parallels between coronavirus and influenza are being drawn in the UK, now that Omicron is causing about the same number of deaths as a bad flu season.
Boris Johnson last week signaled his intention to lift isolation rules for Covid sufferers, and stressed that people with the flu should not be legally quarantined.
And Health Minister Sajid Javid pointed to Britain’s declining case numbers and relatively low hospital rates, saying “we must learn to live with Covid in the same way we must live with the flu”.
Asked about the comparisons, Dr. Nabarro to Sky News: ‘I keep wondering what the people who come up with these amazing predictions know that I and my WHO colleagues do not know.
“You can see what people see from all over the world and report to the WHO is that this is still a very, very dangerous virus, especially for people who have not been vaccinated and who have not been exposed to it before.”
The warning against complacency came when Britain’s coronavirus cases rose for the first time in more than two weeks.
Parallels between coronavirus and influenza are being drawn in the UK, now that Omicron is causing about the same number of deaths as a bad flu season. The UK Health Safety Agency estimates that the number of flu deaths was around 15,000 in 2016/17, with around 300 people dying every day at the peak. In 2017/18, during the Aussie flu outbreak, a total of 22,000 people were killed by the flu, and more than 400 died a day from the worst of the epidemic. But in 2018/19, only 4,000 were estimated to have died from the virus, with only tens of thousands of people dying a day at the top
A further 74,799 positive tests were recorded on Sunday, marking a 5 percent increase over last week.
The crisis had been on the wane since January 5, after Omicron sent daily infections to record levels, peaking at more than 218,000.
Coronavirus cases rise for the first time in more than two weeks: 74,799 catch viruses
Britain’s Covid cases have increased by a total of 74,799 new cases reported today.
Heads of the Ministry of Health reported a further 74,799 cases today, an increase of 3,875 compared to the total number of cases reported last Sunday.
Meanwhile, official figures show that a total of 75 deaths were reported today, marking a 14 percent drop from last week, when 88 Covid deaths were reported.
This is the first time the number of Covid cases has increased for the first time since January 4, when officials reported a 57 percent increase after the festive season.
Earlier today, official figures reported a drop in cases from week to week for 17 days in a row, but the downward curve has slowed in the past three days and fell by only four percent on Friday.
The latest vaccination figures show that 19,430 first doses were given yesterday, while 42,473 doses were also given.
Meanwhile, the NHS also delivered a total of 68,795 boosters, according to the latest figures.
75 more Covid deaths were also recorded yesterday, marking a 14 percent drop from the week before.
There are currently 260 daily Covid deaths in the UK on average as the fourth wave-peak, compared to around 400 from the flu in a bad year.
But Dr. Nabarro said it was ‘dangerous’ to compare Covid to the flu, believing it would not cause future increases in the pandemic.
He told Sky News: ‘Governments need to set the direction and not back away from it.
‘All governments everywhere should not suggest to people that the data has suddenly changed or that viruses have suddenly become incredibly weak.
So all I ask all leaders in the world to do is help everyone stay focused on the work that keeps this virus at bay, prevent people from becoming infected, if at all possible, and make sure, that we are well prepared to deal with further increases as they come. ‘
But Dr. Nabarro said the end of the pandemic was ‘in sight’.
‘The end is in sight, but how long will it take to get there? What kind of difficulties will we face along the way? These are the questions that none of us can answer because this virus continues to give us challenges and surprises. ‘
He added: ‘It’s like we’re just passing the halfway mark in a marathon and we can see that yes, there’s an end and fast runners are coming through in front of us.
‘But we still have a long, long way to go, and it’s going to be tough.
It happened when Tedro’s Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, said the world was at a “critical time” in the pandemic.
Dr. Ghebreyesus called on countries to work together and share vaccines and treatments to end the acute phase of the pandemic.
He said the world now has all the tools at its disposal to do so.
“The Covid pandemic is now entering its third year and we are at a critical time,” he told a news conference today.
‘We must work together to end the acute phase of this pandemic. We can not let it continue to drag out and hover between panic and neglect. ‘
WHO’s European Director, Dr. Hans Kluge, said he believed the continent was approaching a ‘pandemic endgame’.
When the current wave of Omicron sweeping across Europe subsides, “there will be a global immunity for a number of weeks and months, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection, and also declining seasonal”.
Europe has been hit by a far more deadly fourth wave, which has seen draconian restrictions back in some nations.
The Netherlands introduced a complete lockdown, which only ended in the middle of this month, and France revealed today that it will require a vaccine pass for almost all indoor activities – and a negative test or evidence of recent infection will not cut it anymore.
“We expect that there will be a period of calm before Covid can return towards the end of the year, but not necessarily that the pandemic will return,” said Dr. Kluge.
But Kluge warned that it was still too early to consider Covid-19 as endemic.
‘There’s a lot of talk about endemic, but endemic means … that it’s possible to predict what’s going to happen. This virus has surprised (us) more than once, so we have to be very careful, ‘said Kluge.
With the spread of Omicron so far, other variants may still emerge, he warned.
The WHO Regional Office for Africa also said last week that cases of Covid had plummeted in that region, and deaths were declining for the first time since the Omicron-dominated fourth wave of the virus reached its peak.
Last week, Boris Johnson signaled his intention to start treating Covid more like the flu and told MPs: ‘There will soon be a time when we can remove the legal requirement to isolate oneself completely, just as we do not impose legal obligations on people to isolate if they have the flu.
“As Covid becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance and encourage people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.”
And Health Minister Sajid Javid said ‘we need to learn to live with Covid-19’.
He told Sky News: ‘Unfortunately people also die from the flu, in a bad flu year you can unfortunately lose around 20,000 lives but we are not shutting down our whole country and imposing a lot of restrictions to deal with it. We need to move on with our lives with sensible, appropriate and proportionate measures. ‘
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