‘We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic,’ the head of the WHO said
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, told a press conference that “last week, the number of weekly reported deaths from Covid-19 (around the world) was the lowest since March 2020.”
He said: “We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic. We are not there yet, but the end is in sight.”
The global health official, who has been at the helm of the WHO throughout the pandemic, warned: “A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view, she runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we.
“We can see the finish line, we are in a winning position, but now is the worst time to stop running. Now is the time to run harder, and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”
The 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 spokesperson said.
The health crisis has continued for years and killed more than six million people since 2019, and it is still claiming many lives globally. However, in the UK, and in other countries with advanced vaccination programmes, numbers of those dying from Covid-19 have been slashed to only a fraction of the heights seen in 2020 and 2021.
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Dr Tedros said that more countries must make progress towards a target of vaccinating 70 per cent of their population.
He warned that governments should still “plan for surges of cases, and make sure you have the supplies, equipment and health workers you will need”, adding that care for Covid-19 should be integrated into primary healthcare systems.
Dr Tedros added: “Since New Year’s Eve in 2019, and every day since then, WHO has worked without rest to warn the world, and to give people everywhere the tools they need to stay safe, save lives, and keep societies functioning.
“We have helped countries to build oxygen plants and treatment centres. We have shipped millions of masks, gowns, tests, vaccines and more to countries that need them, all over the world.
“We have advised governments on how to find the right mix of public health measures, and with our partners in Covax, we have delivered more than 1.7bn doses of vaccine around the world. Low-income countries have relied on us for three-quarters of their vaccine doses.”
Infectious disease epidemiologist Dr Maria Van Kerkhove added: “We expect there to be future waves of infection, potentially at different time points throughout the world, caused by different sub-variants of Omicron or different variants of concern, but those future waves of infection do not need to translate into future waves of death, because we have tools that can prevent infections, can prevent transmissions – critically the use of vaccines, early use of anti-virals can prevent people from developing severe disease and dying.”