SWITZERLAND—The World Health Organization (WHO) has inaugurated a new laboratory network called CoViNet. 

This is aimed at facilitating and coordinating global expertise and capacities for the early and precise detection, monitoring, and assessment of SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV, and emerging coronaviruses of public health significance.

CoViNet expands upon the initial WHO COVID-19 reference laboratory network established during the early stages of the pandemic.

Initially centered on SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, the lab network will now encompass a broader spectrum of coronaviruses, including MERS-CoV and potential novel strains.

CoViNet constitutes a global network of laboratories specializing in human, animal, and environmental coronavirus surveillance, currently comprising 36 laboratories from 21 countries across all six WHO regions.

Representatives from these laboratories convened in Geneva on March 26–27 to finalize an action plan for 2024-2025, aimed at better equipping WHO Member States for early detection, risk assessment, and response to coronavirus-related health challenges.

The CoViNet meeting unites global experts in human, animal, and environmental health, adopting a comprehensive One Health approach to monitor and evaluate coronavirus evolution and transmission patterns.

This collaboration underscores the significance of bolstered surveillance, laboratory capacity, sequencing, and data integration to inform WHO policies and facilitate decision-making processes.

During the launch, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, acting Director of WHO’s Department of Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention, emphasized the recurring epidemic and pandemic risks posed by coronaviruses.

She extended gratitude to WHO’s partners worldwide for their efforts in comprehensively understanding high-threat coronaviruses like SARS, MERS, and COVID-19, and for their commitment to detecting novel coronaviruses.

Dr. Van Kerkhove highlighted the role of this new global network for coronaviruses in ensuring timely detection, monitoring, and assessment of coronaviruses with public health significance.

Data generated through CoViNet’s activities will inform the work of WHO’s Technical Advisory Groups on Viral Evolution (TAG-VE) and Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC), among others.

This will thereby ensure that global health policies and tools are grounded in the latest scientific insights. 

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