#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 16°C Thursday 19 May 2022
Advertisement

WHO chief warns against talk of ‘endgame’ in pandemic

His comments come after Dr David Nabarro said the virus should not be likened to the flu.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Image: PA

THE HEAD OF the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that conditions remain ideal for more coronavirus variants to emerge and that it is dangerous to assume Omicron is the last one or that “we are in the endgame”.

But Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, also said the acute phase of the pandemic could still end this year – if some key targets are met.

Ghebreyesus laid out an array of achievements and concerns in global health over issues such as reducing tobacco use, fighting resistance to antimicrobial treatments, and risks of climate change on human health.

But he said “ending the acute phase of the pandemic must remain our collective priority”.

“There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out and how the acute phase could end. But it’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame,” Ghebreyesus told the start of a WHO executive board meeting.

“On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”

But he insisted that “we can end Covid-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it this year”, by reaching goals such as the WHO’s target to vaccinate 70% of the population of each country by the middle of this year, with a focus on people who are at the highest risk of Covid-19, and improving testing and sequencing rates to track the virus and its emerging variants more closely.

“It’s true that we will be living with Covid for the foreseeable future and that we will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated system for acute respiratory diseases” to help prepare for future pandemics, he said.

But learning to live with Covid cannot mean that we give this virus a free ride. It cannot mean that we accept almost 50,000 deaths a week from a preventable and treatable disease.

In stark terms, Ghebreyesus also appealed for strengthening of the WHO and increasing funding for it to help stave off health crises.

“Let me put it plainly: If the current funding model continues, WHO is being set up to fail. The paradigm shift in world health that is needed now must be matched by a paradigm shift in funding the world’s health organisation.”

His comments come after the WHO’s special envoy for Covid-19 Dr David Nabarro said the virus should not be likened to the flu. 

‘Passing the halfway mark’

Nabarro said that the “end was in sight” but said that Europe was only “passing the halfway mark in a marathon”.

Asked about remarks that Covid-19 should be treated like the flu, Nabarro told Sky News: “I keep wondering what the people who make these amazing predictions know that I and my colleagues in the World Health Organisation don’t know.

“You see, what people are seeing from around the world and reporting to the WHO is this is still a very, very dangerous virus, especially for people who have not been vaccinated and who’ve not been exposed to it before.

“It can also mutate and form variants and we’ve seen several but we know there are more not far away.

So quite honestly, we are not saying that this should be considered to be like flu or indeed like anything else. It’s a new virus, and we must go on treating it as though it is full of surprises, very nasty and rather cunning.

He told the broadcaster: “All governments everywhere should not suggest to people that the data have suddenly changed, or the viruses suddenly got incredibly weak.

“Governments have got to set the direction and not shy away from that.

“So all I’m asking every leader in the world to do is to help everybody stay focused on the job which is keeping this virus at bay, preventing people from getting infected if at all possible, and making certain that we are well prepared to deal with further surges as they come.”

But he said that the end of Europe’s battle with Covid-19 was “in sight”.

“The end is in sight, but how long is it going to take to get there? What sort of difficulties will we face on the way? Those are the questions that none of us can answer because this virus continues to give us challenges and surprises.”

He added: “It’s as though we’re just passing the halfway mark in a marathon and we can see that yes, there is an end and fast runners are getting through ahead of us.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

“But we’ve still got a long, long way to trudge and it’s going to be tough.”

Restrictions lifted

On Saturday, the vast majority of Covid restrictions were lifted in Ireland, with hospitality venues returning to normal working hours and social distancing measures being scrapped. 

The recommendations were contained in a letter from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan sent to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on Friday.

The CMO said there was no longer a public health rationale for the majority of the measures that were in place.

Announcing the lifting of restrictions, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that NPHET confirmed Ireland had “weathered the Omicron storm” and that “today is a good day”.

NPHET told government that the rate of infection is reducing and that key indicators on which the government bases its decision are going “in the right direction”.

“It was our vaccinations and boosters that prevented the recent wave of infection translating into much more serious levels of illness and death,” Martin said.

He also said that he couldn’t promise that there wouldn’t be further “twists” in the pandemic requiring difficult decisions down the line, adding that the government had always been “guided by the science” and did not want to hinder peoples’ freedoms for longer than necessary. 

Yesterday, there were 4,731 cases of Covid-19 reported by PCR, there were 3,395 cases by antigen tests, with 845 people in hospital and 79 in ICU.

About the author:

Press Association

Read next:

COMMENTS (40)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel