The WHO chief says the pandemic is not over

“We are still in the tunnel,” the WHO chief said. (File)

Geneva:

On Thursday, the head of the World Health Organization toned down his claim that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic was near, warning that declaring the crisis over was “still a long way off.”

Last week, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that the world “was never in a better position to end the pandemic … The end is near”.

And US President Joe Biden went further in an interview broadcast on Sunday, declaring that the pandemic in the United States “is over.”

But speaking to the media again on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Tedros appeared less optimistic, clarifying that “being able to see the end doesn’t mean we’re at the end.”

He reiterated that the world was in the best position it had ever been in to end the pandemic, with the number of weekly deaths continuing to decline – and now only 10% of what was at its peak in January 2021.

Tedros pointed out that two-thirds of the world’s population has been vaccinated, including three-quarters of health workers and the elderly.

“We’ve spent two and a half years in a long, dark tunnel and we’re just starting to see the light at the end of that tunnel,” he said.

But, he stressed, “it is still a long way off, and the tunnel is still dark, with many obstacles that could trip us up if we don’t take care”.

“We are still in the tunnel.”

In its latest epidemiological update, WHO said over 9,800 deaths were reported last week, down 17% from the week before, while 3.2 million new cases were reported.

The UN health agency has warned that the declining number of reported cases is misleading, as many countries have cut back on testing and may not detect less severe cases.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID technical officer, told reporters that the virus is still “circulating at an intense level”, although the situation varied in different countries.

But he stressed that the world has the tools it needs to curb the spread.

“Our goal is to end the emergency in all countries. And we will continue to do so until we reach that goal,” he said.

Since the start of the pandemic, WHO has recorded over 609 million cases and about 6.5 million deaths, although the real toll is believed to be substantially higher.

A WHO study published in May based on the excessive mortality observed in various countries during the pandemic estimated that up to 17 million people could have died from Covid in 2020 and 2021.

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by the NDTV staff and is posted by a syndicated feed.)