BY Asmau Ahmad
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the number of COVID-19 reported cases, hospitalisations and deaths globally has continued to decline.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said this during an online media conference.
“Three months ago, I declared an end to COVID-19 as a global health emergency, although I said that it remains a global health threat.
“Since then, the number of reported cases, hospitalisations and deaths globally has continued to decline.
“However, the number of countries reporting data to WHO has also declined significantly,” Ghebreyesus said.
He said that in the past month, only 25 per cent of countries and territories have reported COVID-19 deaths to WHO, and only 11 per cent have reported hospitalisations and ICU admissions.
According to him, this does not mean that other countries don not have deaths or hospitalisations, it means they are not reporting them to WHO.
“There is no question that the risk of severe disease and death is vastly lower than it was a year ago.
“Thanks to increasing population immunity from vaccination, infection or both, and from early diagnosis with better clinical care.
“The virus continues to circulate in all countries, it continues to kill and it continues to change,” he said.
The WHO boss said that the organisation was currently tracking several variants including EG.5, for which they are publishing a risk evaluation on Wednesday.
He said that the risk remained of a more dangerous variant emerging that could cause a sudden increase in cases and deaths.
“When I declared an end to the COVID-19 emergency in May, I announced that I was establishing a review committee to advise me on standing recommendations to support countries to manage COVID-19 in the long-term,” Ghebreyesus said.
He said to continue those standing recommendations for countries in seven major areas was issued on Wednesday.
According to him, the recommendations reinforce the advice WHO has provided to countries in its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, published in May.
He said the recommendations are first, all countries should update their national COVID-19 programmes using the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, to move towards longer term sustained management of COVID-19.
The second, he said that the organisation urged all countries to sustain collaborative surveillance for COVID-19, to detect significant changes in the virus, as well as trends in disease severity and population immunity.
According to him, the third recommendations asked that all countries should report COVID-19 data to WHO or in open sources, especially on death and severe disease, genetic sequences, and data on vaccine effectiveness.
He said the fourth, urged all countries to continue to offer COVID-19 vaccination, especially for the most at-risk groups, who are most likely to be hospitalised or to die.
“Fifth, all countries should continue to initiate, support, and collaborate on research to generate evidence for COVID-19 prevention and control.
“Sixth, all countries should deliver optimal clinical care for COVID-19, including access to proven treatments and measures to protect health workers and caregivers.
“And seventh, all countries should continue to work towards ensuring equitable access to safe, effective and quality-assured vaccines, tests and treatments for COVID-19,” Ghebreyesus said.
According to him, WHO recognises that many people and government’s view COVID-19 as a thing of the past.
He said that the recommendations are important because of those who lost someone they love and for those who continue to be at risk of severe disease or death.
According to him, it is also for those who continue to suffer from post-COVID-19 condition for them, COVID-19 is still a daily threat, and a daily trauma.
He said that implementing these recommendations would not only help to protect against COVID-19, it would also help countries to prevent and respond to other diseases.
“We cannot predict the future, but we can prepare for the future,” Ghebreyesus said.
According to him, the review committee is also discussing standing recommendations for mpox, which it will deliver later this week.
“It’s important to emphasise that these recommendations do not interfere with the ongoing negotiations on the new pandemic accord or on amendments to the International Health Regulations,” he said.