The World Health Organization on Wednesday said that the world has “never been in a better position” to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last week, the number of weekly reported deaths fromCOVID-19 was the lowest since March 2020,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing. “We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic. We are not there yet, but the end is in sight.”
The optimistic outlook from WHO was tempered with a warning: There’s still more work to be done.
“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,” Tedros said. “We can see the finish line. We’re in a winning position, but now is the worst time to stop running. Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”
He said that if the world doesn’t take this chance to end the pandemic, “we run the risk of more variants, more deaths, more disruption and more uncertainty.”
The organization recommended key actions governments must take to end the pandemic. The steps included vaccinating all of the most at-risk groups, including health workers and older people, continued testing and sequencing of the virus and planning ahead for surges in cases, among other things.
“We can end this pandemic together, but only if all countries, manufacturers, communities and individuals step up and seize this opportunity,” Tedros said.
Still, experts are expecting the downward trend in COVID-19 cases to reverse as early as next month, leading to a potential fall and winter surge. The Biden administration has warned that nearly a third of the U.S. population could get infected in those coronavirus waves.
However, officials say that future coronavirus waves will be different from previous surges because deaths and hospitalizations shouldn’t increase to the same extent as infections due to the levels of immunity in the population and the availability of treatments.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, was asked about the potential for such surges during the briefing. She said that the virus is still circulating at a “very intense level” globally and that cases are being widely underestimated.
“We expect there to be future waves of infection, but that doesn’t necessarily have to translate into future waves of death because there’s so much we can do,” Van Kerkhove said, referencing vaccines and treatments.
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