On Monday January 30, 2023 the World Health Organization (WHO) decided that Covid-19 remains a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). However, due to currently high levels of both natural and vaccine-induced immunity, as well as the relative mildness of the Omicron variants compared to previous ones, the experts agreed that the pandemic is at a “transition point.”
A PHEIC has the benefit of creating an agreement among countries to abide by WHO’s recommendations for managing the pandemic, while each country in its turn can declare its own public health emergency, allowing them to legally waive rules and marshal resources for mitigating the impact of such health crises. Although the world is much better equipped to manage the pandemic than it was in the previous three years, many nations around the world are still experiencing a high – and, in some cases, even rising – number of infections and deaths, an aspect clearly showing that the pandemic is far from over.
“Achieving higher levels of population immunity globally, either through infection and/or vaccination, may limit the impact of SARS-CoV-2 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,” WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee recently stated.
“While eliminating this virus from human and animal reservoirs is highly unlikely, mitigation of its devastating impact on morbidity and mortality is achievable and should continue to be a prioritized goal.”
In a list of temporary recommendations, WHO advised that countries should continue vaccinating people and incorporate Covid vaccines into routine health care, while improving disease surveillance, continuing to fight misinformation, adjusting international travel requirements and recommendations based on comprehensive risk assessment, and maintaining a strong healthcare system to a avoid a “panic-neglect cycle” that characterized many of the previous pandemics.
“My message is clear: Do not underestimate this virus. 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,” WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concluded.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer
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