Pandemic far from over two years on as WHO confirms combined variants

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 10) — The World Health Organization said the pandemic is far from over despite the global decline in reported cases and lifting of restrictions two years since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, said the fight to protect every individual against the virus continues.

"The virus continues to evolve. And we continue to face major obstacles in distributing vaccines, tests, and treatments everywhere they're needed," he said in a media briefing on late Wednesday.

WHO COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove agreed that the pandemic is "not taking a break." She added that although cases are generally on a decline worldwide, there is a big chance cases are underestimated since many nations have dramatically reduced testing efforts.

"Certainly this pandemic is not taking a break despite the fact that we have these words, despite the fact that we have challenges and many countries are facing challenges right now. Unfortunately this virus will take opportunities to continue to spread," she said in the same briefing.

The WHO official also confirmed the detection of "recombinant" COVID-19 cases. She said a combination of the Delta AY.4 and Omicron BA.1 variants were found in some patients in parts of the United Kingdom.

Kerkhove said the Delta-Omicron recombinant, currently dubbed as "Deltacron," is unsurprising considering the high level of circulation of these two coronavirus variants, which overlapped in some nations in terms of transmission.

The WHO official added that initial studies showed there is no increase in the severity of symptoms in patients found with both variants.

"We have not seen any change in the epidemiology with this recombinant. We haven't seen any change in severity. But there are many studies that are underway," she said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health said the country has not recorded a case of the "Deltacron," adding experts are studying it.

The Philippines is recording fewer COVID-19 cases and less hospitalization in the past few weeks. The country was among the first nations to weather the Omicron surge back in January to mid-February.