Covid global health emergency hopefully ends next year: World Health Organization chief


World Health Organization (WHO) chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that he hopes that Covid-19 will no longer be a global health emergency sometime next year.

Addressing a press briefing in Geneva on Wednesday, Ghebreyesus said the WHO Covid-19 Emergency Committee will discuss in January 2023 the criteria for declaring an end to the Covid-19 emergency.

“We’re hopeful that at some point next year, we will be able to say that Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency,” he said.

He added, however, that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the culprit behind the Covid-19 pandemic, will not go away.

“It’s here to stay, and all countries will need to learn to manage it alongside other respiratory illnesses including influenza and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), both of which are now circulating intensely in many countries,” he said.

The WHO chief said one of the most important lessons from the pandemic is that all countries need to strengthen their public health systems to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond rapidly to outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics.

Another key lesson is the need for much stronger cooperation in collaboration, rather than competition and confusion that marked the global response to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, warned waves of infection and re-infection would continue around the world, as the number of weekly new deaths reported by countries still hovers between 8,000 to 10,000.

Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, warned that the world still does not know how the SARS-CoV-2 virus will evolve in the future, and such uncertainties add to risks.

Before the WHO chief ends the Covid-19 emergency, a balance needs to be stricken between the virus — including its impact and unpredictability — and “whether or not we have dealt with the vulnerabilities and the resilience issues in our health systems,” Ryan said.

The first cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

“We continue to call on China to share the data and conduct the studies that we have requested, to better understand the origins of this virus,” Ghebreyesus said.

“All hypotheses remain on the table,” he said, adding that this includes the theory that the virus escaped from Wuhan’s virology laboratories.

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