The effects of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will be felt for decades after it has ended, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.
“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come,” Dr. Tedros said at the start of the at the fourth meeting of the WHO’s Emergency Committee.
“Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths. And some that had large outbreaks have brought them under control.”
The committee, made up of about 20 members and advisers, evaluates the state of the pandemic. It can propose new recommendations or amend existing ones. At the meeting, the Committee unanimously agreed that the outbreak still constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
The committee also advised countries to strengthen public health surveillance for case identification and contact tracing, including in low-resource, vulnerable, or high-risk settings and to maintain essential health services with sufficient funding, supplies, and human resources.
Countries were advised to implement proportionate measures and advice on travel, based on risk assessments, and to review these measures regularly.
Six months into the pandemic, the virus has claimed the lives of over 660,000 persons, while 17 million people worldwide have been infected.
When the WHO issued its global warning against COVID-19 on 30 January, there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths outside China.
The WHO was sharply criticized for declaring the state of emergency whereas the virus had been detected for the first time since late December in China.
The WHO Director-General has referred to the crucial Emergency Committee’s meeting on 22 – 23 January at previous press conferences when he replied to some of the criticism and defended WHO’s performance.
The United States, which accused the WHO of being a “puppet” of China and even of being “bought” by Beijing, officially began withdrawing from the organization in July.
The WHO was also criticized for recommendations judged too late or contradictory, mainly on wearing face masks or ways in which the virus is transmitted.