Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. However, some will become seriously ill and require medical attention. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. Anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age.
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the disease and how the virus spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by staying at least 1 metre apart from others, wearing a properly fitted mask, and washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently. Get vaccinated when it’s your turn and follow local guidance.
The virus can spread from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe. These particles range from larger respiratory droplets to smaller aerosols. It is important to practice respiratory etiquette, for example by coughing into a flexed elbow, and to stay home and self-isolate until you recover if you feel unwell.
WHO updates COVID-19 guidelines on masks, treatments and patient care
WHO has updated its guidelines on mask wearing in community settings, COVID-19 treatments, and clinical management. This is part of a continuous process of reviewing such materials, working with guideline development groups composed of independent, international experts who consider the latest available evidence and the changing epidemiology.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke with Minister Ma Xiaowei, director of China’s National Health Commission, about the COVID-19 situation in the country. WHO appreciates this meeting, as well as the public release of information on the overall situation.
Chinese officials provided information to WHO and in a press conference on a range of topics, including outpatient clinics, hospitalizations, patients requiring emergency treatment and critical care, and hospital deaths related to COVID-19 infection.
WHO is analysing this information, which covers early December 2022 to 12 January 2023, and allows for a better understanding of the epidemiological situation and the impact of this wave in China. WHO requested that this type of detailed information continue to be shared with us and the public. WHO notes the efforts by Chinese authorities to scale up clinical care for its population at all levels, including in critical care.
The overall epidemiology—reflecting a rapid and intense wave of disease caused by known sub-variants of Omicron with higher clinical impact on older people and those with underlying conditions—is similar to waves of infection experienced by other countries, as is the increased pressure on health services. The reported data indicate a decline in case numbers, hospitalizations, and those requiring critical care. WHO has requested a more detailed breakdown of data by province over time.
While the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has earlier reported that Omicron sublineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 are currently circulating, WHO continues to ask that further sequences be shared with open access databases such as GISAID for deeper phylogenetic analyses, and for continued collaboration with technical groups working on virus evolution, clinical care, and beyond.
WHO will continue to work with China, providing technical advice and support, and engaging on analysing the situation. On the call today, Dr Tedros also reiterated the importance of China’s deeper cooperation and transparency on understanding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in carrying out the recommendations detailed in the report of the Strategic Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens.