Monkeypox virus (Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

WHO Chief: COVID-19 ‘Nowhere Near Over’ as Monkeypox Spreads

World Health Organization Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists at the regular weekly press briefing on Tuesday that rising COVID-19 cases are not only putting further pressure on already stretched global healthcare systems and workers but are also triggering an “increasing trend of deaths.”

He reported that the Emergency Committee on COVID-19 last Friday concluded that “the virus remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

And while acknowledging that “we are in a much better position than at the beginning of the pandemic,” he stressed that new waves of variants demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic “is nowhere near over.”

The WHO chief outlined for reporters the interlinked challenges presented now by the virus, beginning with sub-variants of omicron, like BA.4 and BA.5, which continue to drive waves of cases, hospitalizations and deaths globally.

The WHO chief also pointed to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines that are not being deployed effectively.

“The virus is running freely, and countries are not effectively managing the disease burden based on their capacity, in terms of both hospitalization for acute cases and the expanding number of people with post COVID-19 condition, often referred to as long-COVID,” he said.

He highlighted a disconnect in COVID-19 risk perception between scientific communities, political leaders and the general public, describing it as “a dual challenge of communicating risk and building community trust in health tools and public health social measures like masking, distancing and ventilation.”

He then pivoted to the ongoing monkeypox outbreaks saying that there are currently 9,200 cases throughout 63 countries.

Next week the Emergency Committee for the disease will reconvene to examine trends, the success so far of countermeasures and next steps tackling the outbreak, he added.

In the meantime, he said that the WHO continues to battle the stigma around the virus, coordinate vaccine sharing, and drive forward research and development.

“I again stress that we must work to stop onward transmission and advise governments to implement contact tracing to help track and stem the virus as well as to assist people in isolation,” Ghebreyesus highlighted.

On Tuesday the U.K. Health Security Agency reported that as of July 11, there were 1,735 confirmed cases in the U.K. Of these, 1,660 are in England. The UKHSA also noted that a significant majority of cases are in reported in metropolitan London.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are more than 750 monkeypox cases in the U.S. — across almost every state.

However, a stepped up response in ordering vaccines as well as testing has begun. In announcement Monday, the CDC noted that the Mayo Clinic Laboratories will begin testing for monkeypox using CDC’s orthopoxvirus test, which detects most non-smallpox related orthopoxviruses, including monkeypox.

“The ability of commercial laboratories to test for monkeypox is an important pillar in our comprehensive strategy to combat this disease,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.  “This will not only increase testing capacity but also make it more convenient for providers and patients to access tests by using existing provider-to-laboratory networks.”

On June 22, HHS announced that five commercial laboratory companies would soon begin offering monkeypox testing. Since then, CDC has shipped the tests to the laboratories and their employees have been trained on their administration, among other steps.

Anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox should talk to their healthcare provider about whether they need to get tested, even if they don’t think they had contact with someone who has monkeypox. Healthcare providers, nationwide, can order the orthopoxvirus test from Mayo Clinic Laboratories just as they normally would order other tests. The public will not be able to go to a Mayo Clinic laboratory and submit a specimen. Mayo Clinic Laboratories will use electronic laboratory reporting to report results to jurisdictions as outlined in the CDC reporting guidance.

CDC anticipates additional commercial laboratories will come online in the coming days, and monkeypox testing capacity will continue to increase throughout the month of July.  Healthcare providers can access information on Mayo Clinic Laboratories’ test at*.

The latest CDC information on monkeypox is available at

On the subject of COVID, the CDC cautioned Monday that BA.4 and BA.5 — subvariants of the omicron variant — now make up 80 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with BA.5 accounting for a majority of cases.

Early indications signal that BA.5 may have some increased ability to escape immunity, including from prior infections, meaning it has the potential to cause the numbers of infections to rise in the coming weeks.

This potential for increase is greatest where fewer people are up to date on their vaccinations and there is increased waning of immunity from vaccines, the CDC said.

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade.