The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for calm amid reports of new variants of Covid-19 in South Africa and the UK.
“Viruses mutate over time, that’s natural and expected,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a media briefing on Monday.
Tedros said while “the UK has reported that this new variant transmits more easily”, there was “no evidence so far that it is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality”.
He added that the “WHO is working with scientists to understand how these genetic changes affect how the virus behaves”.
He stressed that “all governments and all people” needed “to take the necessary precautions to limit transmission”.
“The bottom line is that we need to suppress transmission of all Sars-CoV-2 viruses as quickly as we can. The more we allow it to spread, the more opportunity it has to change.”
The media briefing came on the back of reports of a new Covid-19 variant in the UK and South Africa, which has led to many European countries refusing access to travellers from the UK.
There were fears that those travelling from South Africa would also be refused access across the world.
Tedros added that while “safe and effective vaccines give us hope, they are not an excuse for people to let down their guard and put themselves and their loved ones at risk”.
“Now is the time to double down on the public health basics that have seen many countries suppress the virus effectively,” he said.
He also cautioned against those who “continue to push a narrative that this virus only affects the old, and that with vaccines on the horizon we can relax”, saying that Covid-19 has already affected children and adults alike “in a variety of ways, and it can attack every system in the body”.
He said “a growing number of people suffer long-term consequences of the virus. This includes neurological complications for children and adults, which are still being researched.”