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Second year of Covid-19 pandemic may be tougher than the first: WHO

Pandemic could be harder to deal with given how virus is spreading, especially in northern hemisphere

GENEVA The second year of the Covid-19 pandemic may be tougher than the first given how the new coronavirus is spreading, especially in the northern hemisphere as more infectious variants circulate, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday.

"We are going into a second year of this, it could be even tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues we are seeing," Dr Mike Ryan, WHO's top emergencies official, said.

The worldwide death toll is approaching two million people since the pandemic began, with 91.5 million infected.

WHO, in its latest epidemiological update, said some five million new cases were reported last week - the likely result of a letdown of defences during the holiday season.

"Certainly in the northern hemisphere, particularly in Europe and North America, we have seen that sort of perfect storm of the season - coldness, people going inside, increased social mixing and a combination of factors that have driven increased transmission in many, many countries," Dr Ryan said.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for Covid-19, warned: "After the holidays, in some countries the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better."

Amid growing fears of the more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain but now entrenched worldwide, governments across Europe on Wednesday announced tighter and longer coronavirus restrictions.

"I worry that we will remain in this pattern of peak and trough and peak and trough, and we can do better," Dr Van Kerkhove said.

DIED

Meanwhile, US health authorities are probing the case of a Florida doctor who died 16 days after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, The New York Times reported.

His wife wrote in a Facebook post that he had died from a brain haemorrhage.

Pfizer said it was "actively investigating" the case, "but we don't believe at this time that there is any direct connection to the vaccine", The New York Times reported.

The drug-maker said "there have been no related safety signals identified in our clinical trials, the post-marketing experience thus far", or with the technology used to make the vaccine. - REUTERS

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