COVID-19 Cases Drop to Lowest Level Since Start of Pandemic – But WHO Urges Vaccination Of All At Risk
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Global COVID-19 cases have dropped to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing on Wednesday.

In the past week alone (5-11 September), the number of new weekly cases decreased by 28% while new weekly deaths decreased by 22%, with just under 11 000 fatalities reported. 

“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic. We’re not there yet, but the end is in sight,” said Tedros.

“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view. She runs harder with all the energy she has left. So must we, as we can see the finish line.”

Tedros urged countries to vaccinate 100% of their most at-risk groups, including health workers and older people, and keep testing and sequencing the SARS-CoV2 virus to identify any possible variants.

He also said that the WHO advised member states to integrate COVID-19 surveillance and testing services with those for other respiratory diseases including influenza, and integrate care for COVID-19 into primary health care systems. 

“We are in a winning position, but now is the worst time to stop running,” said Tedros. “Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work. If we don’t take this opportunity now, we run the risk of more variants, more disruption and uncertainty.

“We can end this pandemic together, but only if all countries, manufacturers, communities and individuals step up and seize this opportunity,” he said, adding that he was “incredibly proud” of WHO’s people and what they had done during the pandemic.

Lower testing levels

However, Dr Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 warned that, because of lower testing levels, cases were likely to be a lot higher than reported.

“We expect there to be future waves of infection, potentially at different time points throughout the world, caused by different sub-variants of Omicron or even different variants of concern,” she warned.

“The more this virus circulates, the more opportunities it has to change. But those future waves of infection do not need to translate into future waves of death because we have tools that can prevent infections, and critically the use of vaccines and vaccination and early use of antivirals can prevent people from developing severe disease and dying.”

The WHO published six policy briefs on Wednesday to assist countries to end COVID-19 on Wednesday, describing them as providing the basis for “an agile response as countries continue to confront the pandemic while consolidating the foundation for a stronger public health infrastructure and strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience”.

“These policy briefs are an urgent call for governments to take a hard look at their policies, and strengthen them for COVID-19 and future pathogens with pandemic potential,” urged Tedros.

The 6 policy briefs issued by WHO cover:
* COVID-19 testing
Clinical management of COVID-19  
Reaching COVID-19 vaccination targets 
Maintaining infection prevention and control measures for COVID-19 in health care facilities
Building trust through risk communication and community engagement 
Managing the COVID-19 infodemic.

Preparing for post-flood health emergencies in Pakistan 

Meanwhile, the WHO is assisting Pakistan to recover from its recent floods, which affected 33 million people and damaged almost 1500 health facilities.

The global body is supporting Pakistan’s Ministry of Health to prepare for, and respond to, outbreaks of measles, cholera, malaria, respiratory, skin and eye infections, typhoid and malnutrition expected in the wake of the floods.


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