UPDATE - EG.5 coronavirus variant poses 'low risk' to global public health: WHO

UPDATE - EG.5 coronavirus variant poses 'low risk' to global public health: WHO

'Risk remains of more dangerous variant emerging that could cause sudden increase in cases, deaths,' says WHO chief


By Beyza Binnur Donmez

GENEVA (AA) – The new COVID-19 variant of interest EG.5 represents a "low risk" to public health on a global scale, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

"Based on the available evidence, the public health risk posed by EG.5 is evaluated as low at the global level, similar to the risk of other current COVID-19 variants of interest," the WHO said in its risk evaluation.

EG.5 may spread globally and contribute to a surge in case incidence due to its genetic features, immune escape characteristics, and growth rate estimates, it warned.

However, it noted that although several countries have experienced an increase in cases and hospitalizations due to rising EG.5 prevalence, there is currently no evidence suggesting a direct association between EG.5 and an increase in disease severity.

As of Monday, according to the WHO, 51 countries reported a total of 7,354 sequences of EG.5. While the largest portion of EG.5 sequences are from China with 30.6%, the other countries with at least 100 sequences are the US, Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the UK, France, Portugal, and Spain.

The risk assessment came hours after the WHO chief said that the organization is tracking multiple variants of the coronavirus, including the EG.5 strain that is spreading in the US and UK.

"WHO is currently tracking several COVID-19 variants including EG.5, for which we are publishing a risk evaluation today," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press briefing in Geneva.

"The risk remains of a more dangerous variant emerging that could cause a sudden increase in cases and deaths," Tedros added.

EG.5 is a subvariant of highly-transmissible omicron variant.

Additionally, he announced a series of "standing recommendations" which are in effect for all states from Wednesday until April 30, 2025.

The recommendations urge nations to continue publishing COVID-19 data, including related-deaths and cases, maintaining vaccination programs and ensuring equitable access to safe and effective vaccines.

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