Lower testing rates likely reason for falling COVID-19 case reports - WHO

WHO Technical lead head COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS

Feb 16 (Reuters) - A drop in COVID-19 testing rates is likely contributing to a decline in reported cases even as deaths are rising, the World Health Organization's technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said on Wednesday.

"The bigger concern right now, I think, is the still increasing number of deaths," Van Kerkhove said during a virtual panel discussion livestreamed on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

"In the last week alone, almost 75,000 people died reported to us and we know that that is an underestimate," she said.

The countries claiming that their transmission has dropped from two to six weeks ago have likely seen a drop in testing rates, said WHO's emergencies chief Mike Ryan.

The WHO earlier this week urged governments to improve vaccination rates and rapid testing as infections have risen from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, especially in east Europe.

Several countries have announced plans to relax COVID-19 restrictions in coming weeks if daily infection numbers kept falling. read more

Now is not the time for countries to change isolation requirements for people who test positive in rapid antigen or PCR tests, Ryan added.

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang

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