GENEVA ( Associated Press) – The head of the World Health Organization said Monday that the coronavirus remains a global health emergency, following the conclusion of a top advisory committee that the pandemic may be nearing a “tipping point” in which high levels of immunity reduce Deaths may be linked to the virus.
“There is no doubt that we are in a better position now” than a year ago, when the infectious Omicron variant of the virus was at its peak, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in remarks at the opening of the organization’s annual executive meeting.
However, Tedros warned that at least 170,000 people worldwide have died due to the coronavirus in the past eight weeks. He called for fully vaccinating all risk groups, increasing testing and early use of antivirals, as well as expanding laboratory networks and combating “disinformation” about the pandemic.
“We remain optimistic that next year, the world will enter a new phase where we will reduce hospitalizations and deaths to the lowest possible levels,” he said.
Tedros made his comments shortly after the WHO published the findings of its emergency committee on the pandemic, which reported that some 13.1 billion doses of vaccines against COVID-19 had been administered. Nearly 90% of healthcare workers and more than four out of five people over the age of 60 have completed the first series of vaccinations, the report said.
“The committee recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic may be at a critical juncture,” the WHO said in a statement. The committee said that a high level of worldwide immunity, achieved by vaccination or infection, “may limit the impact” of the virus that causes COVID-19 on “morbidity and mortality”.
“But there is no doubt that this virus will remain a permanently established pathogen in humans and animals for the foreseeable future,” the text states. Although Omicron variants are easily infectious, there is “a disconnect between infection and severe disease” compared to previous variants.
Committee members also cited “pandemic fatigue” and a growing public perception that COVID-19 is not as great a risk as it was in the past, with people increasingly ignoring preventive measures such as mask use and social distancing.