Is COVID-19 going to be with us “for the foreseeable future”? Yes, it is going to be and the World Health Organisation has shared the fact that the world must accept that COVID-19 is with us for the foreseeable future”, even if it is possible to end the acute phase of the pandemic this year.
The WHO has come up with such a statement when the world reported 100 cases every three seconds and the loss of someone to Covid 19 every 12 seconds. Noting that it is still “dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant, or that we are in the endgame of the pandemic, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.” He said this exactly two years and a day since he declared the deadly virus a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO’s top European official Dr Hans Kluge said that although the SARS-COV-2 crisis was far from over, he was “hopeful” of seeing the end of the “emergency phase in 2022.
“While Omicron appears to cause much less severe disease than Delta, we are still seeing a rapid rise in hospitalizations, due to the sheer number of infections,” said Kluge. “This is in addition to a Delta burden that has not entirely passed, and also to the high number of incidental admissions. Fortunately, hospitalizations with Omicron result much less frequently in intensive care unit admission. As predicted, most people needing intensive care across the region are unvaccinated.”
In an appeal, Tedros said that top priorities of the governments should be to stop future health threats from taking hold and causing such massive disruption to “health systems, economies and societies the world over. To do this, all States should promote health and wellbeing, “preventing disease by addressing its root causes”, he said.
On tackling the coronavirus specifically, Tedros urged better management of acute respiratory diseases.
Two years into the pandemic, with almost 350 million cases reported and more than 5.5 million deaths – numbers known to be an “underestimate” , Tedros insisted that many other measures needed to be implemented to protect the most vulnerable. “Learning to live with COVID cannot mean that we give this virus a free ride,” he noted. “It cannot mean that we accept almost 50.000 deaths a week, from a preventable and treatable disease. It cannot mean that we accept an unacceptable burden on our health systems, when every day, exhausted health workers go once again to the front line.”
Repeating his call for all countries to vaccinate 70 per cent of their populations to help bring an end to the acute phase of the pandemic, the WHO Director General said that 86 States across all regions had been unable to reach last year’s target of vaccinating 40 per cent of their populations.
More than 30 countries, mostly in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean – have not vaccinated even 10 per cent of their populations and 85 per cent of people in Africa have yet to receive a single dose of vaccine. While vaccines remain a key part of the COVID-19 exit strategy, Tedros re-emphasised the importance of equitable access to diagnostics, oxygen and antivirals, too. Much better testing and sequencing of the virus was also needed, the WHO chief explained to track the virus closely, and monitor the emergence of new variants”. On a positive note, Tedros insisted that progress was being made to tackle long-running treatment disparities, thanks to the UN-partnered COVAX initiative, which had delivered its one billionth dose just a week ago, and which had also shipped more vaccines in the past 10 weeks than in the previous 10 months combined”.