According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Covid-19 should be downgraded from a public health emergency of international concern this year, as it moves to a level of risk similar to that of influenza.
“We are getting to this point where we can look at covid-19 the same way we look at seasonal flu,” the WHO said. Michael Ryan at a press conference today. “A health threat, a virus that will continue to kill. But a virus that does not disrupt our society or disrupt our hospital systems. »
director general of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced it during the press conference. “We are certainly in a much better position now than we have been at any time during the pandemic,” he said.
WHO has declared covid-19 a public health emergency of international concern, its highest threat level, in January 2020, after coronavirus cases rose steadily in China and were confirmed in 18 other countries. Two months later, the organization said the phenomenon had become a pandemicgenerally interpreted to mean that a disease spreads in several countries, although there is no universally accepted definition.
Although the coronavirus is still circulating widely, it is now less likely to cause serious illness because most people have had it at least once, many have been vaccinated multiple times, and current omicron variants are less virulent than some past variants.
“It’s very pleasing to see that, for the first time, the weekly number of deaths reported in the last four weeks has been lower than when we first used the word ‘pandemic’ three years ago. “, said Ghebreyesus. “I am confident that this year we will be able to say that covid-19 is over as a public health emergency of international concern. We are not there yet.”
A WHO committee has considered criteria that would mean the threat of covid-19 could be downgraded, but has yet to make a decision.
“We’re on a positive trajectory,” Ryan said. “The virus will pose less and less of a threat to society, where outbreaks of virus transmission would not be associated with higher rates of hospital admissions,” Ryan said. “We’ve started to see this in the last six months, where an increase in infection has not been associated with sustained strain on the healthcare system because vaccination rates are high enough.”
Ryan added, however, that many countries still had gaps in vaccine coverage and access to antiviral treatments for medically vulnerable people. “We need to protect communities that could be vulnerable to serious disease,” he said. And if the virus evolves to become more virulent, “all bets are off,” he said.
However, Stephen Griffin at the University of Leeds, UK, which is a member of iSAGE, an independent group of scientists, says the WHO plans are premature. “Most worrying is the continued isolation and discrimination against the millions of clinically vulnerable people, especially those unable to make effective vaccine responses,” he says.