According to the chief of the World Health Organization, the current position of the world to ultimately bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is at its best than ever. This was the most optimistic assessment yet by the global organization about the years-long health crisis that has killed over six million people.
“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a virtual press conference.
That was the UN agency’s most optimistic evaluation of the pandemic since January 2020 when COVID-19 was declared by it to be an international emergency and began referring to COVID-19 as a pandemic three months later.
The virus, which first appeared in China in late 2019, has took the lives 6.5 million people and diseased 606 million, causing global economies to tremble and healthcare systems to crumble.
The introduction of vaccines and therapies has reduced the number of deaths and hospitalizations, and the Omicron variant, discovered late last year, causes less severe disease. Last week’s COVID-19 deaths were the lowest since March 2020, according to the United Nations.
He urged nations to remain vigilant, comparing the pandemic to a marathon race.
“Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”
Tedros stated that countries must examine their policies and strengthen them in preparation for COVID-19 and future viruses. He also urged countries to vaccinate 100 per cent of their high-risk populations and to continue testing for the virus.
According to the WHO, countries must sustain sufficient supply of medical equipment and healthcare workers.
“We expect there to be future waves of infections, potentially at different time points throughout the world caused by different subvariants of Omicron or even different variants of concern,” said WHO’s senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.
The pandemic continues to be a global and national emergency in most countries since more than 1 million people have died of the disease so far this year.
“The COVID-19 summer wave, driven by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, showed that the pandemic is not yet over as the virus continues to circulate in Europe and beyond,” a European Commission spokesperson said.
According to a WHO spokesperson, the next meeting of experts to decide whether the pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern is scheduled for October.
“It’s probably fair to say most of the world is moving beyond the emergency phase of the pandemic response,” said Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University.
According to him, governments are now considering how to best manage COVID as part of routine healthcare and surveillance.
As countries prepare to launch winter booster campaigns, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States have approved vaccines that target both the Omicron variant and the original virus.
COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency in the United States in January 2020, and that status has been renewed quarterly since then.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)