Two years on, WHO warns COVID-19 pandemic ‘far from over’

GENEVA: The pandemic is far from over, the WHO’s leader insisted Wednesday (Mar 9), two years after he first used the term to wake the world up to the emerging threat of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus first described COVID-19 as a pandemic on Mar 11, 2020.

Two years on, he lamented how the virus was still evolving and surging in some parts of the world.

The WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern – the highest level of alarm in the UN health agency’s regulations – on Jan 30, 2020, when, outside of China, fewer than 100 cases and no deaths had been reported.

But it was only the use of the word pandemic six weeks on that seemed to shake many countries into action.

“Two years later, more than six million people have died,” Tedros told a press conference, while nearly 444 million cases have been registered.

“Although reported cases and deaths are declining globally, and several countries have lifted restrictions, the pandemic is far from over – and it will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere.”

He noted the 46 per cent rise in new cases last week in the WHO’s Western Pacific region, where 3.9 million infections were recorded.

“The virus continues to evolve, and we continue to face major obstacles in distributing vaccines, tests and treatments everywhere they are needed,” Tedros said.

He also sounded a warning on the recent plunge in testing rates, saying it left the planet blind to what COVID-19 was up to.

“WHO is concerned that several countries are drastically reducing testing,” Tedros said.

“This inhibits our ability to see where the virus is, how it’s spreading and how it’s evolving.”

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