"The pandemic is not yet over," a World Health Organization (WHO) official warned on Friday, saying the continued emergence of subvariants "poses a risk of resurgence and overwhelming health systems."
Babatunde Olowokure, director of Health Security and Emergencies for WHO in the Western Pacific, said Singapore and New Zealand are experiencing surges of COVID-19 cases, while Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Mongolia, and Vietnam have shown a sustained decline of cases, hospitalization, and deaths since August.
Olowokure told a press conference that the circulation of COVID-19 Omicron XBB subvariant is fueling the surge in Singapore, while the BA.5 is still the dominant variant in New Zealand.
"Singapore reimposed public health safety measures such as limiting visitors in hospitals and residential care homes," he said.
WHO data showed that the Western Pacific Region tallied over 92 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, including more than 270,000 deaths since the highly infectious and fatal disease emerged in 2020.
Olowokure said the decline of cases in several countries is due to "relatively high vaccine coverage," but he urged people to remain vigilant despite the decline in reported cases regionally and globally, adding that the coronavirus continues to circulate in the region.