Covid-19 remains a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said on Monday, but it acknowledged the pandemic is at a “transition point.”
WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee discussed the pandemic on Friday at its 14th meeting on Covid-19, and Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concurred that the public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, declaration should continue.
In a statement released on Monday, WHO’s advisory committee said it urged WHO to propose “alternative mechanisms to maintain the global and national focus on COVID-19 after the PHEIC is terminated.”
“Achieving higher levels of population immunity globally, 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 will remain a permanently established pathogen in humans and animals for the foreseeable future. As such, long-term public health action is critically needed,” the committee said in a statement on Monday. “While eliminating this virus from human and animal reservoirs is highly unlikely, mitigation of its devastating impact on morbidity and mortality is achievable and should continue to be a prioritized goal.”
In a list of temporary recommendations, Tedros said countries should continue vaccinating people and incorporate Covid-19 vaccines into routine care; improve disease surveillance; maintain a strong health care system to avoid a “a panic-neglect cycle”; continue to fight misinformation; and adjust international travel measures based on risk assessment.
The organization declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a PHEIC in January 2020, about six weeks before characterizing it as a pandemic.
A PHEIC creates an agreement between countries to abide by WHO’s recommendations for managing the emergency. Each country, in turn, declares its own public health emergency – declarations that carry legal weight. Countries use them to marshal resources and waive rules in order to ease a crisis.