The international community should avoid panic when discussing the spread of new COVID-19 variants, World Health Organisation (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said Friday, calling for a "more balanced approach."
"We also have to take a more balanced approach and not really start panicking about these variants", Swaminathan said at a WHO press briefing.
The expert stressed that the discovery of new variants was part of the natural evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
"The issue of the variants, it's obviously making headlines everywhere, particularly in countries where they are being detected. This is the natural evolution of the virus, this is what viruses do, they evolve. It's just that our ability to track this evolution has become so much better now", she said.
Several new highly infectious COVID-19 strains have emerged in countries such as the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.
South Africa halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine last week, citing a report that claimed the vaccine offered only "minimal protection" against mild to moderate COVID-19 caused by the new strain identified there.
Swaminathan said earlier during the briefing that the WHO had received reports of individuals being reinfected with COVID-19 as a result of the spread of new virus strains.