The COVID-19 pandemic is at the ‘transition point’, WHO says

(CNN) – The World Health Organization said Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a global health emergency, but the organization and its advisers also acknowledged that the pandemic is at a “transition point.”

On Friday, WHO’s Emergency Committee on International Health Regulations discussed the pandemic and Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed with its finding that the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) should proceed.

In a statement released Monday, the WHO Advisory Committee called on the WHO to “propose alternative mechanisms to maintain global and national focus on COVID-19 after PHEIC has ended.”

“Achieving higher levels of immunity among the global population, either through infection and/or vaccination, may limit the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on morbidity and mortality, but there is little doubt that this virus is a well-established pathogen in humans and animals will remain for the foreseeable future. Therefore, long-term public health action is urgently needed,” the committee said in a statement on Monday. “Although it is highly unlikely to eliminate this virus from human and animal reservoirs, mitigating its devastating impact on morbidity and mortality is achievable and should continue to be a priority.”

In a list of temporary recommendations, Tedros said countries should continue to vaccinate people and incorporate COVID-19 vaccines into routine care, improve disease surveillance, maintain a strong health system to avoid a “cycle of panic neglect”, continue to tackle misinformation and adapt International travel measures based on a risk assessment.

The organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020, about six weeks before it was declared a pandemic.

A health emergency of international concern creates an agreement between countries to follow WHO recommendations to manage the emergency. Each country, in turn, declares its own public health emergency — declarations that carry legal weight. Countries use them to mobilize resources and dispense with rules to alleviate a crisis.

The United States also remains under its own public health emergency declaration, which Health Secretary Xavier Becerra last renewed on Jan. 11.

More than 170,000 people have died from COVID-19 worldwide in the past eight weeks, Tedros said last week announcing the committee meeting.

He said that although the world is better equipped to deal with the pandemic than it was three years ago, he remains “very concerned about the situation in many countries and the rising number of deaths”.

As global COVID-19 deaths trend upward, the seven-day moving average remains significantly lower than in previous periods of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.