The World Health Organization said Monday that COVID-19 remains a global crisis, but it is at an “inflection” point and could transition from a hair-on-fire emergency to a manageable problem before the end of the year.
WHO’s emergency committee recently said the virus remains a public health emergency of international concern.
It is their highest alert level, though WHO said the designation won’t stick around forever.
“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,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “As we enter the fourth year of the pandemic, 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.”
WHO said too many places are struggling to stand up vaccines and treatments, and there were more than 170,000 COVID-19-related deaths reported globally in the last eight weeks. Progress in reducing virus deaths has been offset to some degree by rising problems in China, where the communist government reversed its draconian control measures and let the virus run rampant.
“In addition, surveillance and genetic sequencing have declined globally, making it more difficult to track known variants and detect new ones,” WHO said in a statement.
In some ways, the WHO’s posture matches the policies deployed by the Biden administration.
President Biden famously declared the pandemic to be over in a “60 Minutes” interview last year. At the same time, his administration is proceeding cautiously, using federal spending power to purchase virus-fighting tools and extending emergency powers that, among other things, allow people to remain in Medicaid insurance coverage.
If WHO lifts its highest alert level, it could be the closest thing the world sees to a declaration that the pandemic is over. Scientists say there is no formal mechanism for no longer calling COVID-19 a pandemic, so it is more of a state of mind or consensus view that tracks with the WHO’s decision on the public health emergency.
Dr. Tedros said while he is optimistic about a brighter future, humans are stuck with the fast-evolving pathogen for the foreseeable future, so they must fight complacency and expand the use of vaccines and available treatments.
“Do not underestimate this virus,” Dr. Tedros said in Geneva, Switzerland. “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.”
Discussion about this post