WHO lifts high alert on COVID-19 pandemic

WHO raises high alert on COVID-19 pandemic 19


COVID-19 is now sufficiently under control to lift the maximum alert level, the WHO decided on Thursday, after more than three years of a pandemic that has claimed “at least 20 million” lives, undermined the global economy and further widened the inequality gap.

“It is with great hope that I declare that COVID-19 is no longer a health emergency of international concern,” said said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

As of May 3, the WHO dashboard showed just under seven million officially recorded deaths.

The experts consulted by the Director General judged that “it was time to move on to a long-term management of the COVID-19 pandemic” despite the uncertainties that remain on the evolution of the virus.

The organization's highest level of alert was decreed on January 30, 2020, just a few weeks after the detection in China of the first cases of this new viral respiratory disease against which there was then no specific treatment.

But it was not until the head of the WHO spoke of a pandemic in March 2020 that States and populations became aware of the seriousness of the situation and that sometimes very restrictive health measures – up to long months of confinement – put in place.

SARS-CoV-2 was by then already well underway on its deadly journey which would see it emerge very quickly around the world.

The fight against the pandemic was invented gradually, often in disorder, as illustrated by the chaotic management of Donald Trump's presidency, often deaf to scientific recommendations.

While the death toll from newly recorded COVID-19 has dropped 95% since January, 16,000 still died from the disease between late March and late April due to the virus, according to WHO statistics. Yet in many countries the pandemic has faded into the background. Tests and health monitoring are reduced to the minimum portion. A disarmament deemed premature by the WHO.

The crisis phase “is over, but not COVID”, warned Friday Maria Van Kerkhove, who managed the fight against COVID-19 within this organization, calling not to “let our guard down”.

Vaccines – which appeared in record time at the end of 2020 – nevertheless remain effective against the most severe forms of the disease despite the countless mutations of the original virus.

An undeniable scientific success, vaccines, especially messenger RNA ones implemented for the first time, were first monopolized by countries that could afford to pay the high price, leaving the others on the sidelines for very long periods of time. months.

As of April 30, more than 13.3 billion doses of vaccines had been injected.

Antivaxers have also mobilized en masse and cast suspicion on vaccination in general , backed by massive disinformation campaigns on social media.

Economic inequalities and access to care have been brutally exposed. The long queues of Brazilians with huge oxygen cylinders to save a loved one from asphyxiation marked, like the images of the countless pyres in India to burn the bodies.

In many countries, the pandemic now seems like background noise, new variants continue to appear and threaten to restart the infernal machine.

“The virus continues to mutate and it is still capable of causing new waves of contamination and death”, recently underlined the boss of the WHO.

He also drew attention to the ravages of long COVID, which results in a wide range of more or less disabling symptoms.

According to him, one in 10 infections results in long COVID, suggesting that hundreds of millions of people could have need for long-term care and whose magnitude and economic and psychological cost are still very poorly taken into account.

The world is now looking for the best way to avoid the next health catastrophe.

But the international community has not yet been able to determine with certainty how this virus mutated into a form that can be transmitted between humans .

If, a priori, the first cases were detected at the end of 2019 in Wuhan in China, two theories clash: leak from a laboratory in the city where these viruses were studied or intermediate animals having infected people who frequented a local market.

This last theory seems for the moment favored by the majority of the scientific community, but the obstruction of the Chinese authorities prevents progress in the investigation into the origins.

At the WHO, member countries have also begun to discuss a future binding agreement that would better nip the next pandemic in the bud and avoid repeating the same mistakes.

The question is not if, but when it will happen.