WHO Covid-19 decision cautious: Chinese experts

BEIJING. – Following the World Health Organisation’(WHO) Monday’s decision to still treat the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health emergency, some senior Chinese public health experts said it was a cautious decision considering the imbalance between countries in immunity, medicine and therapy as well as potential risks of more infection waves.

While some countries such as Japan and the US are planning to end or downgrade their emergency status or epidemic management in the coming months, experts warned that the conditions for dropping the guard against the disease are still immature.

Covid-19 remains a public emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the highest level of alert that the UN health body can give. However, the Covid-19 is probably at a transition point, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday at the health body’s annual executive board meeting.

The WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee held its 14th meeting regarding the Covid-19 pandemic on Friday, after which WHO director-general Tedros determined that the event continues to constitute a PHEIC, according to its website.

The Covid-19 epidemic was declared a PHEIC in January 2020, and was characterised as a pandemic in March 2020. Statistics from the WHO show that more than 6 million people lost their lives during the pandemic.

The WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic may be approaching an inflexion point given that global population has been achieving higher levels of immunity, either through infection or vaccination, which may limit the impact of the coronavirus on morbidity and mortality.

WHO’s decision would be “prudent” from the public health point of view, as the level of the epidemic development is different between countries and regions with some risks still in existence, particularly the risks caused by the COVID-19 mutated strains, Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), told the Global Times yesterday.

Despite that China has seen high vaccination rate and high natural immunity, the country still needs to be cautious as there are still more research and work to do, Zeng noted. More research could be carried out on the reason behind the fast spreading, epidemic features and whether the XBB.1.5, which has become an increasingly prevalent strain in the US, will be prevalent in China, Zeng said.

While countries entering a new stage of dealing with the three-year-old epidemic, experts warned that it’s not the right time to completely drop the guard as sustainable, systematic and long-term monitoring and surveillance, as well as control action plans are still needed to mitigate the impact of the disease, especially when some countries like the US are seeing increasing deaths caused by coronavirus. – Global Times


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