The pandemic has reached a “transition point,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.
Still, that doesn’t mean the public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) designation declared by the WHO in January 2020 is over yet.
The organization’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee met last week to discuss COVID-19, saying in a statement released Monday that it urged WHO to propose “alternative mechanisms to maintain the global and national focus on COVID-19 after the PHEIC is terminated."
The advisory committee said there was little doubt that the virus would remain a permanently established pathogen in humans and animals for the foreseeable future, even as higher levels of immunity from infection or vaccination might limit its impact on illness and death.
“As such, long-term public health action is critically needed,” the committee said. “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.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries should keep vaccinating people, CNN reported. They should incorporate COVID-19 vaccines into routine care, he advised.
Countries should also improve disease surveillance, maintain a strong health care system, fight misinformation and assess risk when making changes to requirements on international travel, Tedros added.
Tedros said he continued to be “very concerned by the situation in many countries and the rising number of deaths.” About 170,000 people have died in the past eight weeks, Tedros said last week, CNN reported.
“My message is clear: Do not underestimate this virus,” he said. “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.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.