Danger lurks amid emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus

Many countries are facing the threat of a new wave of COVID-19 pandemic, mainly due to the emergence of several new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In this context, raising the spirit of vigilance, solidarity, and cooperation to fight the pandemic, while building a healthcare system resistant to challenges, is the task of every country.
SARS-CoV-2 virus. (Photo: Reuters)
SARS-CoV-2 virus. (Photo: Reuters)

The constant mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus threatens to break out new waves of COVID-19 epidemics at any time.

The Canadian province of Ontario is facing the risk of an outbreak, with many new cases recorded. Within a week, Ottawa reported 177 new cases, of which 28 were hospitalised. Faced with the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks, authorities recommend that people take self-protection measures such as wearing masks, taking additional COVID-19 vaccinations, keeping distance during contact with people, washing hands often, and self-isolating in case of infection.

Professor Christina Pagel from the University College London, a member of the British Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies, also warned about the risk of a large-scale COVID-19 epidemic in September 2023 in the UK, when children return to school and adults return to work, after the summer break. In the US, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recorded increases in infections and hospitalisations, due to COVID-19.

The emergence of several new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with rapid transmission, is identified as the cause for the increasing number of hospitalised cases.

According to Israeli medical experts, variant BA.2.86 has more than 30 new mutations. Scientists say that the BA.2.86 variant is unlikely to cause a wave of severe illness and death because many people already have immunity in their bodies from previous vaccinations and COVID-19 infections. However, they still recommend that countries carefully consider the potential risk of this variant. Besides, hot weather causes many activities to be held indoors instead of outdoors, while poor ventilation conditions raise the risk of COVID-19 infection.

The raging COVID-19 pandemic for nearly four years has exposed the weaknesses of the global health system, including unfair access to health services. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) lifted the global health emergency for the COVID-19 epidemic, the lessons about sharing and cooperation remain valuable. The WHO Director-General recently commented that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over and the world still needs tools to prevent the pandemic, while affirming that all countries in the world will have equal access to these tools.

Recently, the WHO has reached three new agreements with COVID-19 vaccine technology research units, to allow knowledge sharing on a WHO global platform. The global alliance for vaccine and immunisation believes that technology-sharing organisations on the WHO platform will help prioritise the interests and needs of the people, over the profits of pharmaceutical research and production units.

To increase equity in access to health services, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, recently called on rich countries to waive COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights. The Committee stated that the COVID-19 epidemic is still a serious public health problem with devastating negative effects on groups vulnerable to racial discrimination, particularly people in Africa and South Asia or ethnic minorities.

The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic over the years has proven that the coordination of actions by countries is the most effective weapon to help the whole world win the pandemic.