Covid-19 still public health emergency of int'l concern: WHO

January 31, 2023, 12:23 pm

<p>World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus</p>

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus

GENEVA – The World Health Organization (WHO) head said Monday after listing advice from an advisory body that Covid-19 continues to constitute a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

"The WHO Director-General concurs with the advice offered by the Committee regarding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and determines that the event continues to constitute a public health emergency of international concern," said Tedros Ghebreyesus in a written statement.

After the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee met over the weekend, the WHO chief noted that this week marks the third anniversary of the determination of Covid-19 as PHEIC in January 2020.

"While the world is in a better position than it was during the peak of the Omicron transmission one year ago, more than 170,000 Covid-19-related deaths have been reported globally within the last eight weeks," said Tedros.

"In addition, surveillance and genetic sequencing have declined globally, making it more difficult to track known variants and detect new ones."

Health systems are currently struggling with Covid-19 and caring for patients with influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, health workforce shortages, and fatigued health workers, said the WHO chief.

WHO has confirmed nearly 753 million Covid-19 cases and almost 6.9 million deaths worldwide related to the disease, since the end of January 2022.

Vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics remain critical

Vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics have remained critical in preventing severe disease, saving lives, and taking the pressure off health systems and health workers globally.

"Yet, the Covid-19 response remains hobbled in too many countries unable to provide these tools to the populations most in need, older people and health workers," said Tedros.

He also said the WHO is urging countries to remain vigilant and continue reporting surveillance and genomic sequencing data and that they recommend appropriately targeted risk-based public health and social measures.

Where necessary, health authorities should vaccinate populations most at risk to minimize severe disease and deaths,

They should conduct regular risk communication, answering population concerns and engaging communities to improve the understanding and implementation of countermeasures, said Tedros.

He said the WHO committee was informed that, globally, 13.1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered, with 89% of health workers and 81% of older adults (over 60 years) having completed the primary series.

"Significant progress has also been made in developing effective medical countermeasures," said Tedros.

These include global capacity for genomic sequencing and genomic epidemiology, as well as an understanding of how to manage the infodemic in the new informational ecosystem, including social media platforms. (Anadolu)