Experts urge more testing as new COVID-19 variant emerges

A sign announcing a face mask requirement is displayed at a hospital in Buffalo Grove, Ill., Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.
A sign announcing a face mask requirement is displayed at a hospital in Buffalo Grove, Ill., Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. Copyright Nam Y. Huh/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP
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With another COVID-19 ‘variant of interest’, the World Health Organization is warning countries around the world not to dismantle their surveillance measures. The health body says the new variant EG5 is a mutation of Omicron and is similar in its effects.

The announcement by the World Health Organization of a new variant of interest comes after the results of seven thousand sequences.


The mutation is called EG5 and has much the same symptoms as Omicron. EG.5 is a subvariant of the descendent lineage of XBB of the virus.

It’s been found in 51 countries so far, but the WHO says that’s probably because these countries are more proactive about testing for the virus.

The variant has been reported in China, Korea, Japan, and Canada amongst other countries, but Maria Van Kerkhove, who sits on an expert panel which advises the WHO said the figures should be used with caution.

She added that with only half of the world carrying out testing for the virus, it’s understandable that the spread of EG5 is far more widespread than the testing suggests.

Kerkhove also cautioned against making assumptions about where the virus mutation started.

“I think the notion that the variants can emerge from one country or another is false and it's dangerous because you think that the problem is somewhere else," she said.

"The virus is circulating so much right now that it's been evolving.”

Kerkhove added that EG5 accounted for 17.4 per cent of positive test sequences.

“This is not a dominant variant worldwide, we classify it as a variant of interest because it has an increased growth rate and we expect that it will increase in detection around the world," she said. 

"But surveillance and sequencing remain quite limited. So it's very difficult for us to say what is circulating everywhere.”

EG5 has been categorised as being of interest because it’s very transmissible. The WHO has also noted that the virus was not as seasonal as in the past.


Extreme summer heat means more people are likely to be in their homes in the Northern Hemisphere summer to take refuge somewhere cool.

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