WHO Asserts That COVID-19 Remains A Global Emergency However Pandemic to End By 2023

The World Health Organization reaffirmed on Monday that Covid-19 remains a global health emergency as the world begins its fourth year grappling with the pandemic.

However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed optimism that this year could mark a transition away from the emergency phase of the pandemic.

“We remain hopeful that in the coming year, the world will transition to a new phase in which we reduce hospitalizations and deaths to the lowest possible level, and health systems are able to manage Covid-19 in an integrated and sustainable way,” Tedros stated in a release.

The WHO’s emergency committee convened on Friday and advised Tedros that the virus, first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, continues to pose a public health emergency of international concern, the organization’s highest alert level. The WHO initially declared an emergency in January 2020.

The WHO’s decision follows the United States’ recent extension of its public health emergency until April.

In his statement on Monday, Tedros highlighted the progress made compared to a year ago when the omicron variant first swept across the globe.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General (Photo: AFP)

The WHO estimates that at least 90% of the global population now has some level of immunity to Covid-19 through vaccination or prior infection.

According to WHO data, weekly Covid-19 deaths have declined by 70% since the peak of the first major omicron wave in February of last year.

However, deaths began rising again in December amid China’s largest wave of infections yet, the world’s most populous country.

Tedros expressed concerns on Friday about the significant decrease in surveillance and genetic sequencing, which hampers efforts to track Covid-19 variants and detect new ones.

He noted that older individuals remain inadequately vaccinated, and many people lack access to antiviral treatments.

“Do not underestimate this virus,” Tedros cautioned reporters at a press conference in Geneva.

“It has and will continue to surprise us, and it will continue to kill unless we do more to get health tools to people that need them and to comprehensively tackle misinformation.”

Last month, Tedros had expressed that the end of the emergency phase of the pandemic is closer than ever before. Back in the fall, he had stated that the end of the pandemic was within sight.

“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic. We are not there yet but the end is in sight,” Tedros had remarked to reporters in Geneva last September.

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