Coronavirus pandemic now driven by younger adults: WHO

MANILA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday it was concerned that the novel coronavirus spread was being driven by people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, many of whom were unaware they were infected, posing a danger to vulnerable groups.

WHO officials said this month the proportion of younger people among those infected had risen globally, putting at risk vulnerable sectors of the population worldwide, including the elderly and sick people in densely populated areas with weak health services.

“The epidemic is changing,” WHO Western Pacific regional director, Takeshi Kasai, told a virtual briefing. “People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving the spread. Many are unaware they are infected.”

“This increases the risk of spillovers to the more vulnerable,” he added.

29 PHOTOSCoronavirus in TexasSee GalleryCoronavirus in TexasHOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) A member of the medical staff speaks to a patient who is treated with a helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)A casket carrying the body of Lola M. Simmons is removed from a hearse at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery following a double funeral service for her mother Lola M. Simmons-Jones at the Denley Drive Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2020, who both died of coronavirus. – Lola M. Simmons-Jones passed due to the coronavirus on July 15, her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen passed away from the coronavirus on July 20. Dallas County reported a record number of COVID-19 related deaths in a single day at 36, according to local health officials. This brings the total to 658 confirmed deaths since the first one was reported March 19. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient who is wearing helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff talk to each otherin the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY)A patient who is treated with a helmet-based ventilator lies on a bed in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff change bed sheets in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient who is wearing helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)The caskets holding the bodies of Lola M. Simmons-Jones and her daughter, Lashaye Antoinette Allen, who both died of coronavirus, are placed next one another before burial at Lincoln Memorial Cemeteryin Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2020. – Lola M. Simmons-Jones passed due to the coronavirus on July 15, her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen passed away from the coronavirus on July 20. Dallas County reported a record number of COVID-19 related deaths in a single day at 36, according to local health officials. This brings the total to 658 confirmed deaths since the first one was reported March 19. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)TOPSHOT – A casket carrying the body of Lola M. Simmons is placed into a hearse following the funeral service at the Denley Drive Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2020, whodied of coronavirus alongside her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen. – Lola M. Simmons-Jones passed due to the coronavirus on July 15, her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen passed away from the coronavirus on July 20. Dallas County reported a record number of COVID-19 related deaths in a single day at 36, according to local health officials. This brings the total to 658 confirmed deaths since the first one was reported March 19. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)A man in a car waits to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)A City of Orlando employee holds a COVID-19 test sample at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)A couple wearing face masks waits to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)A man who arrived on foot is tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: A nurse pulls out a testing swab at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at El Paso Community College Valle Verde campus on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at SISD Student Activities Complex on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Sonia Aguirre, right, and 9-years-old Abdiel Sanchez pays respect to his great grandfather Fernando Aguirre, who passed away at age 69 from COVID-19. Fernando’s wife is struggling for her life with coronavirus. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Deacon Joe Vargas, age 43, is conducting three funerals a day, while wearing an air purifier around his neck to help protect him from getting the coronavirus. He is the youngest deacon in the Diosese of Brownsville, Texas, which is why he is so busy. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: The El Paso County Office of the Medical Examiner on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Two day-old David Alejandro Vega was being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinbug, Texas. His mother, Mayra Vega, who tested positive for COVID, had been unable to hold or see him except via video. Mayra Vega, his mother, tested positive last month, and it resting in the maternal coronavirus ward at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in McAllen, Texas. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-The brother of the groom, Noe De Leon, right, and his wife Jessica Forquer-DeLeon, left, watch with several dozen masked guests during Nichola De Leon’s wedding Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Texas.The brother of the groom, Noe De Leon, and his wife ???, watch with several dozen masked guests during Nichola De Leon’s wedding Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Texas. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-A COVID-19 patient is placed on her stomach to help breathing while on a ventilator at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas, where hospitalizations and deaths have spiked this month. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Catrina Rugar, 34, a traveling nurse from Florida, responded first to hospitals in New York City, then Texas’ Rio Grande Valley this month, where she was treating COVID patients at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg last week.The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 17: Medical workers from New York wearing personal protective equipments handle test samples at temporary testing site for COVID-19 in Higher Dimensions Churchon July 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dispatched medical workers from New York State to assist with the spread of COVID-19 in Houston, and particularly in the hard-hit communities of color. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)Registered Respiratory Therapist Niticia Mpanga walks into a Covid patients room in the ICU at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)A healthcare worker answers the phone in the ER at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)A healthcare worker talks to a patient in the ER at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)A healthcare worker walks down the hall of the ICU at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)Up Next

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A surge in new cases has prompted some countries to re-impose curbs as companies race to find a vaccine for a virus that has battered economies, killed more than 770,000 people and infected nearly 22 million, according to a Reuters tally.

Countries putting their own interests ahead of others in trying to ensure supplies of a possible vaccine are making the pandemic worse, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva on Tuesday.

“(Acting) strategically and globally is actually in each country’s national interest – no one is safe until everyone is safe,” he told a virtual briefing calling for an end to “vaccine nationalism”.

Surges in infections have been reported in countries that had appeared to have the virus under control, including Vietnam, which until recently went three months without domestic transmission due to its aggressive mitigation efforts.

“What we are observing is not simply a resurgence. We believe it’s a signal that we have entered a new phase of pandemic in the Asia-Pacific,” Kasai said.

He said countries were better able to reduce disruption to lives and economies by combining early detection and response to manage infections.

While mutations had been observed, the WHO still saw the virus as “relatively stable”, Kasai said.

WHO also reminded drugmakers to follow all necessary research and development steps when creating a vaccine.

Socorro Escalante, its technical officer and medicines policy adviser, said the WHO was coordinating with Russia, which this month became the first country to grant regulatory approval for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We hope to get the response in terms of the evidence of this new vaccine,” Escalante said.

(Reporting by Ed Davies, Karen Lema, Stephanie Nebehay, Michael Shields and John Miller; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Martin Petty and Ed Osmond)

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