The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated the EG.5 coronavirus strain, currently circulating in the United States and China, as a “variant of interest.” Although this variant is highly transmissible and responsible for a significant number of cases in the US, it does not pose a higher risk to public health compared to other variants.
EG.5, which has been detected in several countries including South Korea, Japan, and Canada, has been causing an increase in COVID-19 cases globally. However, the available evidence does not suggest that it has additional public health risks compared to other Omicron descendent lineages.
While EG.5 has demonstrated increased transmissibility, it is not more severe than other Omicron variants. The WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, stated that there is no change in the severity of EG.5 when compared to other sublineages of Omicron.
Despite the classification of EG.5 as a variant of interest, the WHO highlighted the need for a more comprehensive evaluation of the risks associated with this strain. The organization also emphasized the importance of countries reporting COVID-19 data, including hospitalizations, ICU admissions, mortality, and morbidity data. However, the WHO expressed concern that only 11% of countries are reporting such data, hindering efforts to effectively combat the virus.
In response to the lack of data reporting, the WHO issued standing recommendations for COVID-19, urging countries to continue providing accurate and timely data. This includes reporting mortality data, morbidity data, and continuing vaccination efforts.
The absence of data from numerous countries impedes the global response to the virus, making it challenging to anticipate, act, and adapt to the evolving situation. The delay in accessing vital data is diminishing the effectiveness of global efforts in fighting the pandemic.
As of now, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 6.9 million individuals worldwide, with over 768 million confirmed cases since its emergence. The WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic in March 2020 and ended the global emergency status for COVID-19 in May 2021.