Ease Covid fears, build confidence in people

Frequent global alarms emanating from the WHO is not making decisions easy for countries.

File photo
File photo

Published: Wed 9 Feb 2022, 11:56 PM

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has again warned of more transmissible variants of the coronavirus as the world begins to reopen after the Omicron surge. Keeping the world on edge with this weekly alarmist exercise has become a habit for the world body which has few executive powers.

Viruses mutate. It’s a natural process, so sounding warnings every week has been counter-productive as a strategy when we know of the changing nature of the virus. Countries may often seek guidance from the WHO but have been acting independently based on their assessment of localized situations, terrain, and population density. It has worked well under the circumstances though 5.7 million people have died from the coronavirus. This is despite vaccines becoming available in a record time of eight months back in 2020. Frequent global alarms emanating from the WHO is, therefore, not making decisions easy for countries that are still grappling with less fatal Omicron outbreaks.

The virus remains a dodgy customer. Unpredictability has been its strength and experts have been unable to fathom its behaviour, its mutations, or how severe it will become in the future. It may fizzle out this year or the next but will always be around in the form of the common cold or the flu, say some researchers. This pandemic has been a guessing game - hide-and-seek, or a peek-a-boo.

However, it’s not yet time to drop masks and act normally or socially. The worst may or may not be over. What’s concerning though is the rate of vaccinations across the world and the coverage of the jabs on offer. The West swears on MRNA vaccinations, the developing world has different ideas and they have preferred traditional technologies like the inactivated forms of the virus in vaccines. They are cheaper too.

Meanwhile, high-income countries have pressed on with booster campaigns for their populations who are vulnerable and also for children. Variants will emerge but the question is will they be more infectious. Scientists have been unable to put fears to rest nor can the wise men and women at the WHO who keep sowing fresh concerns while sounding excessive warnings.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who shut down the Island country for more than two years, has also raised the alarm over new variants emerging this year. While vaccinations prevent severe illness, they do not prevent transmission of the disease. Realisation has dawned on the West that there are limitations to lockdowns and vaccinations campaigns.

Unlike in Europe where there is a rush to ease curbs and remove mask mandates, the UAE is gradually lifting Covid restrictions as the number of cases continues to fall in the country. It is a cautious approach that helps build confidence in people instead of the WHO strategy of sowing fear in the global population.

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