COVID-19 pandemic likely to stay 'lengthy', says WHO's Emergency Committee
The panel, which has 17 members and 12 advisers, unanimously agreed during the near six-hour meet that the pandemic still constituted a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
The COVID-19 pandemic is not going away any soon. That was the message from the Emergency Committee of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which met on Saturday.
“The Committee highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 pandemic, noting the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts,” a statement from WHO said.
The committee also pointed out the chances of “response fatigue” as the world copes with the pandemic.
This was the fourth meeting of the committee, which had declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on January 30.
The Emergency Committee is made up of international experts who provide technical advice to the WHO Director-General in the context of a “public health emergency of international concern”. Their recommendations expire automatically after three months of their issuance. So, the committee is reconvened at least every 3 months to review the epidemiological situation and to see whether the event continues to be a PHEIC.
Earlier, on Friday, the WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had also expressed a similar opinion.
“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come," he said.
"Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths. And some that had large outbreaks have brought them under control."
Globally, over 17 million people have been infected by the novel coronavirus, leading to 684,075 deaths, according to statistics from the John Hopkins University.
The panel, which has 17 members and 12 advisers, unanimously agreed during the near six-hour meet that the pandemic still constituted a PHEIC.
"The Director-General declared that the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to constitute a PHEIC. He accepted the advice of the Committee to WHO and issued the Committee’s advice to States Parties as Temporary Recommendations under the IHR (2005)," it said.
It advised WHO to help countries in preparedness and response, maintaining health services, and accelerating the research and eventual access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
It asked countries to strengthen public health surveillance for case identification and contact tracing, and maintain essential health services with sufficient funding, supplies, and staff.
Countries were also asked to issue advice on travel, based on risk assessments, and to review these measures regularly.
"The Committee encouraged all individuals, in particular young people, and communities to continue to play an active role in preventing and controlling transmission of COVID-19. The Committee recognized that State Parties should enable and support communities and individuals and thus build trust in governments’ response measures," a statement said.
The Emergency Committee is to reconvened within three months, based on the decisiion of the Director-General.