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WHO says pandemic is far from over despite high vaccination rates in some countries

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Family members of Vijay Raju, who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), mourn before his cremation at a crematorium ground in Giddenahalli village on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, May 13, 2021.

Samuel Rajkumar | Reuters

The global pandemic isn’t over yet despite high Covid-19 vaccination rates in some countries, the head of the World Health Organization warned Monday, days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told fully vaccinated Americans they can go without masks in most places.

“There is a huge disconnect growing where in some countries with the highest vaccination rates, there appears to be a mindset that the pandemic is over, while others are experiencing huge waves of infections,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference from the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

“The pandemic is a long way far from over,” he warned. “It will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere.”

Tedros’ comments come four days after the CDC updated its public health guidance to say fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a face mask or stay 6 feet away from others in most settings, whether outdoors or indoors. It’s the first time the federal government has encouraged people to stop wearing masks since the agency first called for face coverings more than a year ago.

Some doctors said the new guidelines meant that “vaccinated people can go back to normal.”

In the United States, new Covid-19 cases are on the decline as more Americans get vaccinated. As of Sunday, the nation is reporting about 33,200 daily new infections, based on a seven-day average of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, down 19% from a week ago. Roughly 123 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by the CDC.

Meanwhile, other countries are experiencing major outbreaks. India, for example, is reporting a seven-day average of about 328,900 cases a day as of Sunday, according to Hopkins’ data. That’s down 15% from a year ago but still an enormous number of cases. The country also reached a new record for deaths, reporting a seven-day average of 4,039 deaths, according to Hopkins data.

Tedros said the agency has been responding to the Covid surge in India and other hot spots around the world. He said the WHO needs immediate funding in order to sustain its technical and operational support to all countries, especially those most impacted by the pandemic.

“The current response plan is underfunded and the vast majority of that is ring-fenced by donors for specific countries or activities,” he said.

He also called on Covid vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer and Moderna, to make more shots available to COVAX, which supplies doses to poorer countries.

“We need doses right now and call on them to bring forward deliveries as soon as possible,” he said.

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