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GENEVA, Switzerland, (AFP) — The World Health Organisation said Wednesday it hopes that COVID-19 and Mpox will no longer be public health emergencies in 2023 as both diseases end their most dangerous phase.
WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said one of the chief lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic was that countries had to respond quickly to surprise outbreaks.
On COVID-19, he said the weekly death toll was now around a fifth of what it was a year ago.
“Last week, less than 10,000 people lost their lives. That’s still 10,000 too many and there is still a lot that all countries can do to save lives,” he told a press conference.
“But we have come a long way. We are hopeful that at some point next year, we will be able to say that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency.”
The WHO’s emergency committee, which advises Tedros on declarations of public health emergencies of international concern (PHEIC), will begin discussing what the end of the emergency phase might look like when they meet in January, he added.
“This virus will not go away. It’s here to stay and all countries will need to learn to manage it alongside other respiratory illnesses,” he said.
“We still face many uncertainties and challenges in 2023. Only one in five people in low-income countries has been vaccinated.
“Access to diagnostics and life-saving treatments for COVID-19 remains unacceptably unaffordable and unequal. The burden of post-Covid-19 condition is only likely to increase and large gaps in surveillance remain.”
On Mpox — formerly known as monkeypox — Tedros said the global outbreak had taken the world by surprise.
More than 82,000 cases have been reported from 110 countries, although the mortality rate has remained low, with 65 deaths.
“Thankfully, the number of weekly reported cases has declined more than 90 percent since I declared a PHEIC in July,” said Tedros.
“If the current trend continues, we’re hopeful that next year we’ll also be able to declare an end to this emergency.”