After three years COVID-19 still remains a global health emergency: WHO
Geneva: The rising number of weekly reported deaths due to COVID-19 since the beginning of December 2022, made the fourteenth meeting of the ‘International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic’ declare that COVID-19 remains a global health emergency.
The Committee met on Friday, January 27, 2023, to decide whether the global spread of COVID-19 still remained a public health emergency of international concern or not. It noted that in the past eight weeks, more than 170,000 people lost their lives to COVID-19.” Last week, almost 40 thousand deaths were reported to WHO, more than half of them from China.
“And that’s just the reported deaths; we know the actual number is much higher,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today.
Significantly, when the Committee last met in October 2022, the number of weekly reported deaths was less than 10 thousand a week, which was near the lowest since the pandemic began.
At the meeting, the WHO Secretariat expressed concern about the continued virus evolution in the context of unchecked circulation of SARS-CoV-2 and the substantial decrease in Member States’ reporting of data related to COVID-19 morbidity, mortality, hospitalization and sequencing, and reiterated the importance of timely data sharing to guide the ongoing pandemic response.
As the world enters the fourth year of the pandemic, the D-G said “there is no doubt we are in a far better situation now than we were a year ago when the Omicron wave was at its peak”.
Dr Ghebreyesus recalled that it was three years ago today when he declared a public health emergency of international concern over the global spread of COVID-19 – the highest level of alarm under the International Health Regulations, “and for the moment, the only level of alarm”.
The Committee viewed that the COVID-19 pandemic was “probably at a transition point” and advised to navigate this transition carefully and mitigate the potential negative consequences.
Dr Ghebreyesus informed the 152nd session of the Executive Board today that WHO was now working to determine the “most effective” mechanism for advising Member States and manufacturers on vaccine composition and vaccination frequency.
“We can’t control the virus, but we can do more to address the vulnerabilities in populations and health systems. That means vaccinating 100% of the most at-risk groups; It means increasing access to testing and early antiviral use; It means taking context-specific measures when there is a surge in cases; It means maintaining and expanding laboratory networks; And it means fighting misinformation,” he said.
Asserting that vaccination will remain an essential part of WHO’s approach, he said he remained 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”. The Emergency Committee was informed that, globally, 13.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, with 89% of health workers and 81% of older adults (over 60 years) having completed the primary series.
– global bihari bureau