The head of the World Health Organization said on the years-long global health crisis that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic ‘is on the horizon’

The head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday that the world was never in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, in his most optimistic forecast yet about the years-long health crisis that has killed more than six million people.
“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a virtual press conference.

It was the most optimistic assessment from the UN agency since it declared an international emergency in January 2020 and began calling COVID-19 a pandemic three months later.

The virus, which emerged in China in late 2019, has killed nearly 6.5 million people and infected 606 million, disrupting global economies and flooding health care systems.
Rolling out vaccines and treatments has helped halt deaths and hospitalizations, and the Omicron variant, which emerged late last year, is causing less severe disease.
The United Nations agency reported that deaths from COVID-19 last week were the lowest since March 2020.
However, on Wednesday, he again urged states to remain vigilant and likened the pandemic to a marathon.

“Now is the time to run a little harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”

Mr. Tedros said countries need to take a closer look at and strengthen their policies to tackle COVID-19 and future viruses.
He also urged countries to vaccinate 100 percent of at-risk groups and continue testing for the virus.
The World Health Organization said countries need to maintain adequate supplies of medical equipment and health care workers.
“We expect there will be future waves of infection, potentially at different time points around the world due to different omicron sub-variables or even different worrisome variables,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s chief epidemiologist.

With more than a million deaths this year alone, the pandemic remains an emergency globally and within most countries.

“The summer wave of COVID-19, led by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, has shown that the pandemic is far from over as the virus continues to spread in Europe and beyond,” a European Commission spokesperson said.
A WHO spokesperson said the next meeting of WHO experts to decide whether the pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern, is scheduled for October.
“It is probably fair to say that most of the world is moving beyond the emergency phase of the pandemic response,” said Dr Michael Head, a senior researcher in global health at the University of Southampton.

He said governments are now looking at how best to manage COVID-19 as part of their routine health care and surveillance.

Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States have approved vaccines targeting the Omicron variant in addition to the original virus as countries prepare to launch supportive winter campaigns.
In the United States, COVID-19 was initially declared a public health emergency in January 2020, and that status has been renewed every three months since then.
The US Department of Health is set to renew it again in mid-October for what policy experts expect is the last time before it expires in January 2023.
US health officials have said the pandemic is not over yet, but the new bivalent vaccines represent an important shift in the fight against the virus.

They predict that a single annual vaccine, similar to the flu shot, should provide a high degree of protection and return the country to normal.

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