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Will we see an end to the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022?

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Dr Natasha Wood 01/04/2022

On Wednesday (30 March 2022), the WHO released an updated, and the third version, of their Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan for COVID-19. During his opening remarks at the press conference, WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, emphasised the importance of equitable vaccination and continued surveillance – not only in response to COVID-19, but also for future epidemics.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has led the global efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to advocate for each country – persistent towards the goal of promoting, and sustaining, healthier lives for all.

The updated Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan for COVID-19 describes three potential pathways the pandemic may take during 2022: the likely scenario, best-case scenario, and worst-case scenario. Each scenario depends on a combination of potential emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants together with our protective immunity against these variants.

Based on the current data and knowledge, the WHO Director General described the likely scenario where SARS-CoV-2 keeps evolving, but immunity increases over time (due to vaccination and infection), resulting in a reduced severity of disease.

Regardless of the scenario that pans out during the year, to end the acute phase of the pandemic, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted the importance for countries to invest in five core components:

  1. Surveillance, laboratories, and public health intelligence;
  2. Vaccination, public health and social measures, and engaged communities;
  3. Clinical care for COVID-19, and resilient health systems;
  4. Research and development, and equitable access to tools and supplies;
  5. Coordination, as the response transitions from an emergency mode to long-term respiratory disease management.

At Hyrax Biosciences, we wholeheartedly support these goals. Our platform for SARS-CoV-2 genotyping (Exatype SARS-CoV-2) is freely available for all scientists and researchers in Africa. This means that, through our cloud-based Exatype platform, African SARS-CoV-2 surveillance is provided at no cost.

Together with the release of the updated Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan for COVID-19, the WHO announced that they are launching “a new strategy to scale up genomic surveillance globally for pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential” as well as a “new global strategy for arboviruses – the family of viruses spread by mosquitoes that includes Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya and Yellow fever”.

The threat of arboviruses affects more than half the world’s population and this announcement underlines the WHO’s goal to mitigate the impact of these viruses and other pathogens as we look to the future. By building on the tools and policies implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, enormous progress can be made towards the global expansion of infectious disease surveillance capabilities.

At Hyrax Biosciences we share these goals. Our Exatype platform is designed for genomic surveillance and resistance interpretation (for example, HIV drug-resistance reporting). If your laboratory or institution requires support for pathogen genotyping and surveillance, please get in touch to see how we can work together.