In a press conference on Wednesday in Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said discussions about the criteria for declaring the end of the pandemic will begin in January when the agency’s Emergency Committee next meets.
“Of course, this virus will not go away,” he said. “It’s here to stay, and all countries will need to learn to manage it alongside other respiratory illnesses including influenza and RSV, both of which are now circulating intensely in many countries.”
Tedros also noted that only 1 in 5 people in low-income countries have been vaccinated, and there remain significant weaknesses and gaps in surveillance of new SARS-CoV-2 variants, which leaves the world vulnerable to being blindsided by another omicron-like variant rise.
At this point last year, omicron was killing 50,000 people each week. Last week, fewer than 10,000 people died of COVID-19 globally. “That’s still 10,000 too many,” Tedros said, “and there is still a lot that all countries can do to save lives. But we have come a long way.”