WHO experts warn of 'strong likelihood' of new concerning variants

Committee chairman Didier Houssin acknowledged to reporters that "recent trends are worrying".

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GENEVA - The World Health Organization's emergency committee warned Thursday that new concerning variants of COVID-19 were expected to spread around the world, potentially making it even harder to halt the pandemic.

"The pandemic is nowhere near finished," the committee warned in a statement following a meeting on Wednesday on the pandemic situation.

Committee chairman Didier Houssin acknowledged to reporters that "recent trends are worrying".

He said a year-and-a half after the WHO first declared a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) - its highest alert level - "we are still running after this virus and the virus is still running after us".

For now, four concerning variants of COVID-19 are dominating the global pandemic picture, Alpha, Beta, Gamma and especially the rapidly-spreading Delta variant first detected in India.

But the committee warned that worse could lie ahead, pointing to "the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control".

WHO declares variants as being "of concern" when they are seen as either more transmissible, more deadly or have the potential to get past some vaccine protections.

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