COVID-19
Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO)

End of COVID-19 in Sight, Says WHO Chief

The world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus said.

It was Ghebreyesus most optimistic outlook yet on the years-long health crisis which has killed over 6 million people, Reuters reported.

“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” the WHO Director-General , told reporters at a virtual press conference.

That was the most upbeat assessment from the UN agency since it declared an international emergency in January 2020 and started describing COVID-19 as a pandemic three months later.

The virus, which emerged in China in late 2019, has killed nearly 6.5 million people and infected 606 million, roiling global economies and overwhelming healthcare systems.

The rollout of vaccines and therapies have helped to stem deaths and hospitalisations, and the Omicron variant which emerged late last year causes less severe disease. Deaths from COVID-19 last week were the lowest since March 2020, the UN agency reported.

Still on Wednesday, he again urged nations to maintain their vigilance and likened the pandemic to a marathon race: “Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”

Read Also: COVID-19 still ravaging lives, IFRC Warns

Countries need to take a hard look at their policies and strengthen them for COVID-19 and future viruses, Tedros added.

He also urged nations to vaccinate 100 per cent of their high-risk groups and keep testing for the virus while also stating that countries needed to maintain adequate supplies of medical equipment and healthcare workers.

“We expect there to be future waves of infections, potentially at different time points throughout the world caused by different subvariants of Omicron or even different variants of concern,” said WHO’s senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.

With over 1 million deaths this year alone, the pandemic remains an emergency globally and within most countries.

WHO’s next meeting of experts to decide whether the pandemic still represents a public health emergency of international concern is due in October, a WHO spokesperson said.

“It’s probably fair to say most of the world is moving beyond the emergency phase of the pandemic response,” said Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University.

Governments are now looking at how best to manage COVID as part of their routine healthcare and surveillance, he added

Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States have approved vaccines that target the Omicron variant as well as the original virus as countries prepare to launch winter booster campaigns.

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