WHO Chief: End of COVID Pandemic Is Coming

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, M.D., the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) (WHO). On Wednesday, Dr. Ghebreyesus said in a virtual press conference that “we are not there yet. But the finish is in sight.”

Dr. Ghebreyesus compared the fight against COVID-19 to a marathon and urged people to keep going. “Now is the moment to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the results of all our hard work,” he stated, before asking countries to try to raise vaccination and testing rates for the virus.

But WHO senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, Ph.D., stressed that this doesn’t imply COVID-19 is going away. “We expect there to be additional waves of infections, maybe at different time periods throughout the world caused by different subvariants of Omicron or even distinct variants of concern,” she said.

  • The Chief of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, M.D., said Wednesday that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic “is in sight.”
  • Though Dr. Ghebreyesus noted that “we are not there yet,” and that countries need to try to increase vaccination and testing rates to get to the finish line.
  • Experts note that this does not mean the virus is going away, but rather turning into an endemic.

Why does WHO say the end of the pandemic is in sight?

The hypothesis that the pandemic is ending is “based on the fact that cases are declining and the number of persons who have been inoculated and had past infection from COVID is building,” says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. “But the infection is not going to disappear,” he argues.

As someone who has lived through a pandemic, you undoubtedly have at least some concept of what the word means—but the meaning counts. A pandemic is an event that happens where a disease spreads across numerous nations and harms a huge number of people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains. The WHO declared in March 2020 that COVID-19 was a global pandemic.

Is COVID-19 still a threat?

“Things are certainly getting better,” says Martin J. Blaser, M.D., professor and head of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers University, noting that “0% of people had any immunity” to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in 2019. Now, he points out, “a large percent of the population has at least some immunity—this mitigates the severity of the infection, and is widespread.”

But William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, says he’s “concerned” Dr. Ghebreyesus’ statements would be misconstrued. “I’m scared people will read this and actually think COVID is done and not be inspired to get vaccinated or boosted,” he says. “We’re well into the transition from pandemic to endemic, but this does not mean we have zero COVID cases.”

What will happen when COVID-19 is no longer a pandemic?

It’s not totally obvious and there are a lot of unsolved questions. “Will it become seasonal, like influenza, where there’s a six-month time period for instances, or will it tend to percolate year-round with these spikes that depend on where you’re geographically located?” Dr. Russo says. “Regardless, it will still be there and continue to infect people.”

Dr. Schaffner says isolation standards may vary with time and possibly even fade away. “I expect recommendations will become as they are with influenza,” he says. Meaning, you won’t need to isolate when you have COVID-19 in the future, but health experts may instead urge that you use good discretion and mask up while you’re contagious.

But Dr. Russo says the pandemic may affect our perspective on the flu, too. “We’ve been pretty laissez-faire with flu,” he says. “I’m hoping that we’ll learn that people should use smart judgment. If you’re sick, stay home.” The aim, he says, is that “we can progress with individuals embracing public health policies to help break that transmission chain.”

Dr. Blaser says that behaviour has already changed, nevertheless. In the future, he expects that “people will be wearing masks more, staying home from work if sick, and there may be less hugging of strangers.” He also expects remote work possibilities to continue. “The workplace has changed,” he says.

Overall, experts highlight the importance of doing everything you can to decrease your chance of getting really ill if you happen to catch COVID-19—i.e. get vaccinated and continue to remain up to date on your COVID-19 immunizations. “We’re doing a lot better,” Dr. Russo says. “But we need to continue to proceed in the right direction.”

Also Read About Omicron Bivalent Booster for Kids Now Authorized by FDA