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Covid-19 menace anticipated to develop into on par with flu this yr, says WHO



Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director common of the World Well being Group


Covid-19 is more likely to be downgraded from a public well being emergency of worldwide concern this yr, because it shifts to the same degree of danger as flu, based on the World Well being Group (WHO).

“We’re coming to that point where we can look at covid-19 in the same way we look at seasonal influenza,” mentioned the WHO’s Michael Ryan at a press convention as we speak. “A threat to health, a virus that will continue to kill. But a virus that is not disrupting our society or disrupting our hospital systems.”

WHO director common Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement on the press convention. “We’re certainly in a much better position now than we have been at any time during the pandemic,” he mentioned.

The WHO declared covid-19 a public well being emergency of worldwide concern, its highest degree of menace, in January 2020, after coronavirus circumstances had been steadily rising in China and had been confirmed in 18 different nations. Two months later, the organisation mentioned the phenomenon had develop into a pandemic, normally taken to imply that an sickness is spreading in a number of nations, though there is no such thing as a universally agreed definition.

Whereas the coronavirus continues to be broadly circulating, it’s now much less more likely to trigger critical sickness, as most individuals have had it no less than as soon as, many have been vaccinated a number of occasions and the present omicron variants are much less virulent than some previous variants.

“It’s very pleasing to see that, for the first time, the weekly number of reported deaths in the past four weeks has been lower than when we first used the word ‘pandemic’ three years ago,” mentioned Ghebreyesus. “I’m 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 been reviewing the factors that will imply the menace from covid-19 might be downgraded, however hasn’t but reached a choice.

“We are on a positive trajectory,” mentioned Ryan. “The virus will represent less and less of a threat to society, where surges in virus transmission would not be associated with higher rates of hospital admission,” mentioned Ryan. “We’ve begun to see that in the last six months, where a surge in infection has not been associated with sustained pressure on the health system, because rates of vaccination are high enough.”

Ryan added, nevertheless, that many nations nonetheless had gaps in vaccination protection and in entry to antiviral therapies for individuals who are medically susceptible. “We’ve got to protect communities who might be vulnerable to severe disease,” he mentioned. And if the virus evolves to develop into extra virulent, “all bets are off”, he mentioned.

Nonetheless, Stephen Griffin on the College of Leeds, UK, who’s a member of iSAGE, an impartial group of scientists, says the WHO’s plans are untimely. “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.


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