WHO & Covid-19

Nations can now begin to transition from emergency mode into managing Covid-19 alongside other infectious diseases, WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this month.

On May 5, Ghebreyesus announced that Covid-19 was no longer a global health emergency, which as we all know only too well, was declared a pandemic by the WHO in January, 2020, three long and bitter years ago.

For many of us, the time for transition from emergency mode to infection and disease management has taken too long to arrive.

As Ghebreyesus said, “With great hope, I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency.”

However, he was also quite categorical in stating that Covid-19 was not yet done as a global health threat, noting that the week before, “Covid-19 claimed a life every three minutes and that’s just the deaths we know about…”

And as he noted, emphatically, “The virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it is still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths.”

While the WHO’s announcement emphasised that caution be mixed with vigilance against becoming infected with the coronavirus and its evolving variants, at the same time it also brought some relief that this traumatic episode in our global lives was no longer at front and centre; and that we must continue working together to keep it firmly in its lane, and so hopefully see it growing distant, but not altogether fading away, in the rear-view mirror.

However, it must be emphasised that we can no longer leave our doors unlocked; let us not forget that Covid-19 arrived at our front doors as an inimical presence, entered insidiously into our homes, and then turned our lives upside down; it took away relatives, friends, and neighbours here in our diaspora, and back in our homelands.

And in its global impact besides the trauma of escalating deaths, as Ghebreyesus noted, the pandemic brought “severe economic upheaval, erasing trillions from GDP, disrupting travel and trade, shuttering businesses and plunging millions into poverty”.

At this time, Covid-19 remains a clear threat. Its severity for exponential escalation of mortality, and social and economic uncertainty, still remains a possibility, and thus it is wise and in our interest to heed Ghebreyesus’ caution.

As he declared, “The worst thing any country could do now is to use this news as a reason to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about. What this news means is that it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing Covid-19 alongside other infectious diseases.”

Meanwhile, let us not forget the trauma and its concatenations of grief and economic disruption that this pestilence brought into our homes and into our lives; and is still continuing with its deadly impact in many more millions of lives across the globe.

The statistics are stark reminders of how virulent was this penetrating, deleterious, and deadly pathogen. As of May 10 this year, the WHO reported there were 765,903,278 confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide; so far, there have been 6,927,378 global deaths; and counting.

While the official reports of deaths are countable and measurable, it is also a known fact that the total, global number of those who perished from Covid-19 could be greater: that millions more of its victims were not officially recorded.

The WHO has indicated it hopes higher up in State hierarchies that nations will now “sustain the national capacity gains and prepare for future events to avoid the occurrence of a cycle of panic and neglect”; and that governments “should consider how to improve country readiness for future outbreaks”. Also, notably, that Covid-19 vaccination be integrated into life course vaccination programmes, among other recommendations.

Covid-19 sea-changed our world, and our lives; moving forward, with the global emergency over, we must realign our lives to accommodate its insidious presence among us.