COVID-19 remains global health emergency, but pandemic is at a transition point, World Health Organization says
The World Health Organization said Monday the COVID-19 pandemic remains a dangerous and infectious disease, however, the global health crisis appears to be approaching a transition point.
WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee discussed the pandemic on Friday at its 14th meeting on COVID-19, and Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concurred the pandemic continues to constitute a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC.
The Committee recommended that WHO develop a proposal for alternative mechanisms to maintain the global and national focus on COVID-19 after the PHEIC is terminated.
“The Committee acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic may be approaching an inflexion point,” according to a WHO statement released Monday. “Achieving higher levels of population immunity globally, either through infection and/or vaccination, may limit the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on morbidity and mortality, but there is little doubt that this virus will remain a permanently established pathogen in humans and animals for the foreseeable future. As such, long-term public health action is critically needed. While eliminating this virus from human and animal reservoirs is highly unlikely, mitigation of its devastating impact on morbidity and mortality is achievable and should continue to be a prioritized goal.”
While the world is in a better position than it was during the peak of the Omicron transmission one year ago, more than 170,000 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported globally within the last eight weeks, according to the statement. In addition, surveillance and genetic sequencing have declined globally, making it more difficult to track known variants and detect new ones.
The committee also agreed that COVID-19 remains a dangerous infectious disease with the capacity to cause substantial damage to health and health systems.
Temporary recommendations issued by WHO include:
- Maintain momentum for COVID-19 vaccination to achieve 100% coverage of high-priority groups
- Improve reporting of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance data to WHO
- Increase uptake and ensure long-term availability of medical countermeasures
- Maintain strong national response capacity and prepare for future events
- Continue working with communities and their leaders to address the infodemic and to effectively implement risk-based public health and social measures
- Continue to adjust any remaining international travel-related measures
- Continue to support research for improved vaccines that reduce transmission
The organization declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020, about six weeks before characterizing it as a pandemic.
The United States remains under its own public health emergency declaration, which Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra renewed most recently on Jan. 11.