Cairo, Egypt – The COVID-19 pandemic and monkeypox continue to be matter of concern with 26 confirmed cases of monkeypox being reported in five countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, while almost 22.5mn confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 344,000 deaths have been reported as of July 24.
Dr Ahmed al Mandhari, WHO’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said in a media briefing on Tuesday that 21 out of 22 countries in the region reported at least one variant of concern. The Omicron variant of concern has been reported by 17 countries.
Over the past five weeks, the region continued to observe an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths because of the circulation of variants and the easing or lifting of public health and social measures in most countries, he said. “We anticipate this surge to continue for a few more weeks.”
About vaccination efforts, he said the coverage is still lagging behind WHO’s global vaccinations targets of 70 per cent of all populations vaccinated and 100 per cent coverage of priority groups, such as healthcare workers, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.
“As of July 18, only 45 per cent of the region’s population was fully vaccinated, eight per cent partially vaccinated and 47 per cent have not yet received a single dose, placing them at increased risk and allowing the virus to further spread and mutate.”
On monkeypox, Dr Mandhari informed that a few days ago, WHO’s Director General declared the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
“In our region, this declaration will help us raise awareness about the disease and garner a more collective and timely response. We are taking this PHEIC seriously, learning from the lessons of our response to COVID-19.”