COVID-19 has significantly slowed down, but still kills thousands across the globe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun discussions—its 14th meeting since the start of the pandemic—on lowering the alert level over the coronavirus.
WHO sources said however, that no decision would be announced before Monday.
The WHO’s emergency committee on COVID meets every three months to
discuss the crisis, then brief WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The WHO currently classifies the coronavirus pandemic as a “public health emergency of international concern,” the highest level of alert defined by the organization.
Last month, top German virologist Christian Drosten said “the pandemic is over” and the virus had become “endemic,” with infection rates not rising or falling significantly.
Before Friday’s meeting, Tedros said more than 170,000 COVID-19 deaths had been reported in recent weeks.
“The actual number is certainly much higher,” he added.
Although the weekly rate had dropped below 10,000 in October, deaths have been rising since December, driven by new waves of infections in China.
Tedros said over the past week “almost 40,000 deaths were reported to WHO, more than half of them from China.”
China significantly reduced COVID-19 restrictions in December, leading to a surge in cases. Infection rates appeared to have stabilized in major cities by mid-January.
Global response ‘hobbled’ by uneven distribution
The WHO chief said the fight against COVID-19 was still deterred by lack of vaccines, tests, and treatments.
“The global response remains hobbled because, in too many countries, these powerful, life-saving tools are still not getting to the populations that need them most — especially older people and health workers,” Tedros said.
Tedros also said trust in health care was being undermined by a “continuous torrent” of misinformation and that health authorities were struggling to cope with the burden of COVID-19 cases.
“While we are clearly in better shape than three years ago when this pandemic first hit, the global collective response is once again under strain,” Tedros said earlier this week.
Tedros lamented that too few people around the world were adequately vaccinated.
COVID-19 will “continue to kill, unless we do more to get health tools to people that need them,” Tedros said.