Covid-19 remains public health emergency of int’l concern: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee on Covid-19 has unanimously agreed that the ongoing global pandemic still constituted a public health emergency of international concern.

The announcement came after the conclusion of a two-day meeting on Friday, which was convened by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus under the International Health Regulations to review the pandemic situation and progress made on the temporary recommendations, reports Xinhua news agency.

The pandemic continued to require a coordinated international response, according to the committee.

It provided concrete and targeted advice for WHO and countries to focus on in the coming months, including evidence-informed, risk-based and coherent measures in relation to international traffic; surveillance and contact tracing efforts; maintaining essential health services including mental health services; and preparing plans for future Covid-19 vaccines.

The committee also urged countries to avoid politicization of the pandemic response.

“Governments should focus on tackling the virus and avoid politicization,” Tedros said at a press briefing after the meeting.

He called on countries to keep investing in the health system and workforce, and improving testing, tracing and treatment of all cases.

Meanwhile, Tedros announced that a group of international experts had their first virtual meeting with their Chinese counterparts, as part of the future WHO-led international mission to Beijing to identify the zoonotic origin of the novel coronavirus, which originated last December in Wuhan city.

According to Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, that virtual meeting helps the international team of experts and their Chinese colleagues to familiarize with each other and exchange information on what has been achieved so far in identifying the animal source of Covid-19.

He emphasized that scientists need the best answers to the origin, “not just any answer that satisfies political needs of speed and investigation” .

Ryan suggested that finding the animal source may take quite a while just as previous investigations regarding the MERS and SARS viruses.

The grim announcement comes as the overall number of global coronavirus cases has topped 45.4 million, while the deaths have surged to 1,187,020, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Saturday morning, the total caseload and death toll stood at 45,477,552 and 1,187,023, respectively, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US is the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 9,036,678 and 229,594, respectively, according to the CSSE.

India comes in second place in terms of cases at 8,088,851, while the country’s death toll soared to 121,090.