The COVID-19 pandemic is not over despite a reduction in reported cases and deaths, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
WHO director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, stated this on Sunday at the opening of the world health assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ghebreyesus noted that more than two years into “the most severe health crisis in a century”, over six million COVID-19 deaths have been reported to the WHO with new estimates of excess being almost 15 million deaths.
He added that reported cases have declined significantly from the peak of the Omicron wave in January and reported deaths are at their lowest since March 2020.
“In many countries, all restrictions have been lifted, and life looks much like it did before the pandemic. So is it over? No, it’s most certainly not over,” he said.
“I know that’s not the message you want to hear, and it’s definitely not the message I want to deliver. There’s no question we have made progress, of course we have: 60% of the world’s population is vaccinated, helping to reduce hospitalisations and deaths, allowing health systems to cope, and societies to reopen.
“But it’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere. Reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions – and this in a world in which testing rates have plummeted. And reported deaths are rising in my continent – the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage.
“This virus has surprised us at every turn – a storm that has torn through communities again and again, and we still can’t predict its path, or its intensity.”
The WHO director-general said lowering our guard would be at “our peril” as increasing transmission means more deaths and more risk of a new variant emerging.
“Declining testing and sequencing means we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus. The pandemic will not magically disappear. But we can end it. We have the knowledge. We have the tools. Science has given us the upper hand,” he said.