Considering the rapid spread in the United States and China, the World Health Organization on Wednesday classifed the EG.5 strain of Covid-19 causing coronavirus as the 'variant of interest'.
However, the apex global health watchdog also assured that it did not seem to pose more of a threat to public health than other variants.
The EG.5 variant, which is most prevalent in the United States, so far is responsible for an estimated 17% of cases and therefore is considered as a priamry cause behind the recent surge in Covid-19 cases.
Besides the United States and China, the strain has also been identified in South Korea, Japan and Canada, among other countries.
The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed 6.9 million lives across the globe, with more than 768 million confirmed cases since the virus emerged. WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic in March 2020 while the global emergency status ended for Covid-19 in May this year.
What does WHO say?
WHO mentioned in it's risk evaluation, "Collectively, available evidence does not suggest that EG.5 has additional public health risks relative to the other currently circulating Omicron descendent lineages."
According to WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, the EG.5 had an increased transmissibility but was not more severe than other Omicron variants.
"We don't detect a change in severity of EG.5 compared to other sublineages of Omicron that have been in circulation since late 2021," she said.
Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus deplored that many countries were not reporting Covid-19 data to WHO.
He said that only 11% had reported hospitalizations and ICU admissions related to the virus.
In response, WHO issued a set of standing recommendations for Covid-19, in which it urged countries to continue reporting Covid data, particularly mortality data, morbidity data, and to continue to offer vaccination.
Van Kerkhove said that the absence of data from many countries was hindering efforts to fight the virus.
"About a year ago, we were in a much better situation to either anticipate or act or be more agile," she said. “And now the delay in our ability to do that is growing. And our ability to do this is declining.”