WHO discusses end of COVID-19 emergency status
The UN agency sees the COVID-19 pandemic as a "public health emergency of international concern," its highest level of alert
The World Health Organization (WHO) began discussions on lowering the level of alert over COVID-19.
WHO sources said that no decision would be announced before Monday.
Experts in the WHO's emergency committee on COVID-19 are holding their 14th meeting since the start of the pandemic. The panel meets every three months to discuss the crisis and then brief WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The WHO currently classes the COVID-19 pandemic as a "public health emergency of international concern," which is the highest level of alert defined by the organization.
Last month, top German virologist Christian Drosten said that "the pandemic is over" and that the virus had become "endemic," with infection rates not rising or falling significantly.
'Spike in deaths' following new China wave
However, WHO chief Tedros noted before the Friday meeting that over 170,000 COVID-19 deaths had been reported that in recent weeks.
"The actual number is certainly much higher," he said.
Although the weekly death rate had dropped below 10,000 in October, they have been rising against since December amid new waves of infections in China.
Tedros said that just in the last week "almost 40,000 deaths were reported to WHO, more than half of them from China."
China significantly reduced COVID-19 restrictions in December, leading to a surge in cases. Infection rates appeared to have stabilized in major cities by mid-January.
Global health response 'hobbled' due to uneven distribution
The WHO chief said that the fight against COVID-19 was still held back by a lack of vaccines, tests and treatments.
"The global response remains hobbled because in too many countries, these powerful, life-saving tools are still not getting to the populations that need them most — especially older people and health workers," Tedros said.
He added that trust in healthcare is being undermined by a "continuous torrent" of misinformation and that health systems were struggling to cope with the burden of COVID-19 cases.
"While we are clearly in better shape than three years ago when this pandemic first hit, the global collective response is once again under strain," Tedros said earlier this week.
He also said too few people around the world are adequately vaccinated.
COVID-19 will "continue to kill, unless we do more to get health tools to people that need them," according to the WHO chief..
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