Despite general perceptions, the pandemic is not over and future risks remain says WHO Emergency Committee
- Published: Wednesday, 13 July 2022 09:25
The twelfth meeting of the WHO International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) took place on Friday, 8th July 2022.
The meeting determined that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
Key points from the meeting include:
- The Committee recognized an overall decoupling of incident cases from severe disease, deaths, and pressure on health systems in the context of increased population immunity. However, the Committee unanimously agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic still meets the criteria of an extraordinary event that continues to adversely impact the health of the world’s population, and that the emergence and international spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants may present an even greater health impact.
- The Committee expressed concern about steep reductions in testing around the world, resulting in reduced coverage and quality of surveillance.
- The epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection remains unpredictable as the virus continues to evolve, through sustained transmission in the human population and in domestic, farmed, and wild animals in which the virus was newly introduced.
- The Committee noted that both the trajectory of viral evolution and the characteristics of emerging variants of the virus remain uncertain and unpredictable, and selective pressure on the virus is increasing the probability of new, fitter variants emerging, with different degrees of virulence, transmissibility, and immune escape potential.
- Given the general public’s perception that the pandemic may be over, the Committee also highlighted the ongoing challenges in communicating, particularly to communities that continue to experience high levels of transmission, that the mitigation of the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in the immediate and longer terms, depends on the use of public health and social measures (PHSM). The Committee emphasised the importance of using learning from the last two and a half years to nuance the implementation of PHSM in individual communities. The Committee acknowledged that any risk communication and community engagement effort should hinge on consistent and synchronized political will, policies, and a concert of community influencers to shift the course of risk perception.