The World Health Organization has warned that a global decline in genome sequencing is making it “so much harder to understand” how the COVID-19 virus is mutating.
Sequencing enabled the world to rapidly identify SARS-CoV-2 and develop diagnostic tests and other tools for outbreak management, the WHO said.
But the number of sequences shared per week has fallen by 90 percent since the beginning of the year, said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus.
“The number of countries sharing sequences has dropped by 75 percent, making it so much harder to understand how the virus might be changing,” he said during a WHO briefing.
“With colder weather approaching in the northern hemisphere and people spending more time indoors, the risks for more intense transmission and hospitalization will only increase in the coming months – not only for COVID-19, but for other diseases including influenza.”
The United Nations agency also noted an increase in COVID-19 deaths over the past four weeks, with 15,000 fatalities reported around the world in the recent week.
“Fifteen thousand deaths a week is completely unacceptable when we have all the tools to prevent infections and save lives,” Tedros said.
“We’re all tired of this virus, and tired of the pandemic. But the virus is not tired of us.”
The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed 229 COVID-related deaths from Aug. 8 to 14, the highest in four months.
The country on Thursday registered 3,758 new COVID-19 infections, increasing the nationwide tally to 3,844,708.
But the independent OCTA Research Group said COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) are now trending downward, with a weekly growth rate of minus 9 percent.
OCTA fellow Guido David, in a tweet, said that NCR’s seven-day case average went down to 1,173, after recording 845 new cases on Wednesday.
Its average daily attack rate (ADAR) also slightly decreased to 8.14 per 100,000 population from 8.70 on Aug. 14.
NCR’s reproduction number or the number of people infected by one case, also declined to 1.03 on Aug. 14 from 1.18 on Aug. 7.
Its one-week positivity rate, on the other hand, also decreased from 17.1 percent on Aug. 9, to 15.7 percent on Aug. 16.
The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested.
The NCR’s health care utilization for COVID-19 patients also remained at 37 percent, while intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy was also still at 31 percent as of August 16.
David said new COVID-19 cases in NCR may go down as low as 500 cases per day by end-August or the start of September.