The head of the World Health Organization on Tuesday urged countries to maintain surveillance of coronavirus infections, saying the world is “blind” to how the virus is spreading as testing rates fall.
“As many countries reduce testing, the WHO is finding out less and less information about transmission and sequencing,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference at the UN agency’s headquarters in Geneva.
“It makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution.”
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“The testing rate has fallen from 70 to 90 percent,” said Bill Rodriguez, chief executive of FIND, a global aid group working with the WHO on increasing access to testing.
“We have an unprecedented ability to know what’s going on.
And yet today, because testing is the first casualty of the global decision to let our guard down, we are being blindsided by what is happening with this virus,” he said.
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Experts call for better COVID testing in Canada
Experts say Canada needs to develop a robust system to detect COVID-19 activity in the absence of widespread PCR testing, which has ultimately led to false official cases.
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Since the Omicron variant took hold over the winter, provinces and territories have reduced access to the gold-standard PCR test, citing a lack of ability to meet demand and the need to free up health care resources. .
Many people have relied on the results of rapid antigen tests since then, but they are not as reliable in detecting the micron variant or report and track the way PCR tests do.
Experts say there needs to be a better way to inform people about COVID-19 activity in their communities.
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Dr. Carolyn Collijn, a mathematician and epidemiologist at Simon Fraser University, said Canada currently has “too many infections” to expand access to PCR tests to find the true number of infections.
In the absence of PCR testing, many provinces have been relying on wastewater data to determine COVID case trends.
Collision said wastewater data is an important source of information that can be shared publicly without compromising one’s personal medical data and can help communities understand the spread of COVID-19 . But like PCR and rapid tests, she said it has its limits.
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There are a number of factors that can alter wastewater signals, such as precipitation, temperature and leave different amounts of sequestration in different water types, resulting in less accurate COVID-19 case estimates, he said.
Collision said it hopes to have an integrated system that will incorporate wastewater data, along with PCR and rapid test results, in such a way that how much COVID-19 is in a population and the risk of people contracting it. Designed to inform about Virus.
(Reporting by Emma Farge and Jennifer Rigby; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)
With files from the Canadian Press