The World Health Organization warned Saturday that the coronavirus pandemic would likely be “long” after its emergency committee met to assess the crisis six months after the international alarm sounded.
The committee “stressed the long-term duration of this COVID-19 pandemic,” said WHO in a statement, and warned of the risk of “response fatigue” given the socio-economic pressures on the countries.
The panel met for the fourth time on Friday during the coronavirus crisis, six months after the Jan. 30 declaration of a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the highest WHO alert level.
“WHO continues to assess that the overall level of risk for COVID-19 is very high,” he said following the meeting.
The coronavirus novel has killed at least 680,000 people and infected at least 17.6 million since the epidemic emerged in China last December, according to an official sources report compiled by AFP.
It is not surprising that the panel, made up of 17 members and 12 directors, unanimously agreed that the pandemic was still a PHEIC.
Several countries around the world have imposed rigorous blockades in an attempt to control the spread of respiratory disease, causing economies to plummet.
The committee urged WHO to provide nuanced and pragmatic guidance on COVID-19 management “to reduce the risk of response fatigue in the context of socioeconomic pressures”.
The group urged the WHO to support countries in preparing for the implementation of proven therapies and vaccines.
The committee also urged the agency to speed up research on the remaining “critical unknowns” of the virus, such as the animal source of the disease and potential animal reservoirs.
It required a better understanding of the epidemiology and severity of COVID-19, including its long-term health effects.
And the committee wanted more light on the dynamics of the virus, such as “modality of transmission, spreading, potential mutations; immunity and correlates of protection”.
The nearly six-hour meeting was hosted at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, with some participants who joined via video link.
The committee will meet again within the next three months.
Entering the meeting, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the effects of the pandemic would be lasting. “It is reassuring to think that six months ago, when you recommended me to file an FHEIC, there were less than 100 cases and no deaths outside of China,” he said on Friday.
“The pandemic is a health crisis once in the century, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come.”
The committee warned countries to prepare their health systems to cope with seasonal flu and other disease outbreaks along with the new coronavirus.
They were also invited to “encourage global solidarity” on COVID-19 and to address “mis / misinformation” about the virus.
WHO has been heavily criticized for taking the time to declare an international emergency.
The United States, which accused him of being too close to China, officially began withdrawing from the organization in July.
The agency was also criticized for recommendations deemed late or contradictory, particularly on the use of masks or how the virus was transmitted.