World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends an ACANU briefing on global health issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine at Geneva, Switzerland, on December 14, 2022.
Denis Balibouse | Reuters
The World Health Organization said on Monday that Covid-19 remains a global health emergency as the world enters the fourth year of the pandemic.
But WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he hoped the world would emerge from the emergency phase of the pandemic this year.
“We remain hopeful that over the coming year, the world will move into a new phase in which we reduce hospitalizations and deaths to the lowest possible level, and health systems are able to manage the Covid- 19 in an integrated and sustainable way,” said Tedros. said in a statement.
The WHO emergency committee met on Friday and informed Tedros that the virus, which was initially discovered in Wuhan, China in late 2019, remains a public health emergency of international concern, the alert level the highest in the United Nations agency. The WHO first declared a state of emergency in January 2020.
The WHO decision comes after the United States earlier this month extended its public health emergency until April.
In his statement on Monday, Tedros said the world is in a much better place than a year ago when the omicron variant first swept the globe. The WHO has estimated that at least 90% of the world’s population has some level of immunity to Covid due to vaccination or infection.
Weekly Covid deaths have fallen by 70% since the peak of the first massive wave of omicron in February last year, according to WHO data. But deaths began to rise again in December as China, the world’s most populous country, faced its biggest wave of infections yet.
Tedros said on Friday that surveillance and genetic sequencing had dropped significantly, making it difficult to track Covid variants and detect new ones. Too few older people are fully immunized and many people don’t have access to antivirals, he said.
“Don’t underestimate this virus,” Tedros told reporters at a press conference in Geneva on Friday. “It has surprised us and will continue to surprise us, and it will continue to kill unless we do more to get health tools to people in need and comprehensively fight misinformation.”
Last month, the WHO chief said the end of the emergency phase of the pandemic was closer than ever. In the fall, Tedros said the end of the pandemic was in 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 told reporters in Geneva last September.
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