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COVID-19 may end in 2023 – WHO

by Haruna Gimba
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By Asmau Ahmad

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that COVID-19 will be over as a public health emergency in 2023.

The Director General of the Organisation, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said this at a virtual media briefing on Friday.

COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020, when there were fewer than 100 reported cases of COVID-19 outside China, and also no reported deaths outside the Communist country.

A public health emergency of international concern is the highest level of alarm that the WHO can sound under international law.

During the briefing, the WHO chief said there were now almost seven million reported deaths from COVID-19, although the actual number of deaths was much higher.

“We are certainly in a much better position now than we have been at any time during the pandemic. 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.

“I am 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. Last week, there were still more than five thousand reported deaths. That’s five thousand too many for a disease that can be prevented and treated. Even as we become increasingly hopeful about the end of the pandemic, the question of how it began remains unanswered,” he said.

Ghebreyesus urged China to be ‘transparent’ in sharing COVID-19 data in efforts to determine the disease’s origins.

Last Sunday, WHO was made aware of data published on the GISAID database in late January, and taken down again recently.

The data, from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, relates to samples taken at the Huanan market in Wuhan, in 2020.

While it was online, scientists from a number of countries downloaded the data and analysed it.

“As soon as we became aware of this data, we contacted the Chinese CDC and urged them to share it with WHO and the international scientific community so it can be analysed. We also convened the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, which met on Tuesday.

“We asked researchers from the Chinese CDC and the international group of scientists to present their analyses of the data to SAGO. These data do not provide a definitive answer to the question of how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important in moving us closer to that answer.

“And every piece of data relating to studying the origins of COVID-19 needs to be shared with the international community immediately. These data could have– and should have– been shared three years ago.

“We continue to call on China to be transparent in sharing data, and to conduct the necessary investigations and share the results,” he noted.

According to him, understanding how the pandemic began remained both a moral and scientific imperative.

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