Keep Up the Fight: WHO’s Emergency Phase End Doesn’t Mean the Threat is Gone
The World Health Network (WHN) is urging governments not to let their guard down and to continue to protect everyone, especially vulnerable populations, with COVID mitigation strategies. The recent announcement made by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the emergency phase of the pandemic is over has been interpreted by many governments as the time to relax the measures, but the WHO has been clear that this is not the case.
The virus is still present and still killing. The WHN hopes that governments will take the WHO’s warnings seriously and continue to build and maintain pandemic response plans. This is especially important for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and those living in poverty. Social conditions, as well as physiological ones, are essential determinants of vulnerability.
The WHO has also implemented a never-before-used provision in the International Health Regulations to set up a Review Committee that will develop long-term recommendations for COVID-19 management. The WHN is urging governments to proactively take this responsibility for COVID-19 management and to continue to use and improve upon the mitigation strategies that have been implemented over the past three years.
The Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared over three years ago on January 30, 2020. Since then, WHO estimates that at least 20 million people have died from COVID-19, while the virus also caused profound disruptions and devastation worldwide, leaving deep scars. The struggles, and the threats, especially for those who are vulnerable, are still huge.
But WHO emphasizes that the fight is not over. “Last week, COVID-19 claimed a life every three minutes—and that’s just the deaths we know about,” Tedros said. “As we speak, thousands worldwide fight for their lives in intensive care units. And millions more continue to live with the debilitating effects of post-COVID-19 conditions. Unfortunately, this virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it is still changing.”
The WHN is calling on governments to keep up the fight against COVID-19, to not let their guard down, and to continue to protect vulnerable populations. It is only through continued vigilance and preventive measures that we can prevent the loss of more lives and mitigate the devastating impact of this pandemic. Individuals, families, and institutions should also take precautions to protect themselves and prevent the harm that would come from infection, including both acute and long COVID, with its organ damage and immune system impacts.
Reducing the rate of infections can be achieved through the adoption of technology and mitigation strategies based on the following five pillars of prevention:
- Clean Air: Utilize ventilation, HEPA air filtering, and air quality monitoring to ensure safe, clean air environments.
- Masking: Encourage the use of respirator masks such as N95, FFP2, KN95, KF94, and elastomeric masks for optimal protection.
- Testing: Implement frequent surveillance testing to identify and isolate cases as quickly as possible.
- Social Distancing: Promote remote work, limit in-person gatherings, and maintain safe physical distance when interactions are necessary.
- Vaccination: Advocate for widespread vaccination to provide a higher level of immunity within the community.
By combining these measures at different levels, we can achieve a high degree of ongoing protection and reduce both the impact of current variants and the rate at which mutations lead to new ones. We can also reduce the prevalence of and vulnerability to multiple other infectious diseases.
In its press conference, the WHO also mentioned the possibility of reinstating a health emergency declaration for COVID-19 if the global situation worsens. So, whether you are told it is behind us or whether you rightfully see that COVID is still threatening people and society, we all need to work to keep it at bay. That’s why the WHN is urging everyone to take action to implement these prevention measures. It is not over until it is over.