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WHO: COVID remains dangerous — long-term public health action critically needed

WHO: COVID remains dangerous — long-term public health action critically needed
January 30
15:07 2023

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says COVID is still a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

In statement on Monday, the WHO said its international health regulations emergency committee came to the conclusion after its 14th meeting regarding the COVID pandemic.

A global health emergency is WHO’s highest level of alert and the organisation first declared COVID as a health emergency on January 30, 2020.

So far, there have been over 752 million cases globally and more that 6.8 million deaths.


According to the WHO’s statement, the committee members expressed concern about the high number of COVID deaths compared to other respiratory infectious diseases, the insufficient vaccine uptake, and the uncertainty associated with emerging variants.

The committee added that reduced public perception of risk has led to a reduction in the use of public health and social measures.

“The Committee agreed that COVID-19 remains a dangerous infectious disease with the capacity to cause substantial damage to health and health systems,” the statement reads.


“The Committee acknowledged that, while the Omicron sub-lineages currently circulating globally are highly transmissible, there has been a decoupling between infection and severe disease when compared to earlier variants of concern.

“However, the virus retains an ability to evolve into new variants with unpredictable characteristics.”

The committee acknowledged that the COVID pandemic “may be approaching an inflexion point”, adding that achieving higher levels of population immunity globally, either through infection and/or vaccination, may limit the impact of COVID 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,” the statement reads.


“The Committee, therefore, recommended that WHO, in consultation with partners and stakeholders, should develop a proposal for alternative mechanisms to maintain the global and national focus on COVID-19 after the PHEIC is terminated, including if needed a possible Review Committee to advise on the issuance of standing recommendations under the IHR.”

Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, agreed with the committee’s advice on the significance of COVID as a public health emergency of international concern.

“The Director-General acknowledges the Committee’s views that the COVID-19 pandemic is probably at a transition point and appreciates the advice of the Committee to navigate this transition carefully and mitigate the potential negative consequences,” the statement reads.


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