London: A panel of global health experts will meet on Thursday to decide if COVID-19 is still an emergency under the World Health Organization’s rules, a status that helps maintain international focus on the pandemic. The WHO first gave COVID its highest level of alert on January 30 2020, and the panel has continued to apply the label ever since, at meetings held every three months.
However, a number of countries have recently begun lifting their domestic states of emergency, such as the United States. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said he hopes to end the international emergency this year.
There is no consensus yet on which way the panel may rule, advisors to the WHO and external experts told Reuters. Professor Marion Koopmans, a Dutch virologist on the WHO panel said,
It is possible that the emergency may end, but it is critical to communicate that COVID remains a complex public health challenge.
She declined to speculate further ahead of the discussions, which are confidential. One source close to negotiations said lifting the “public health emergency of international concern”, or PHEIC, label could impact global funding or collaboration efforts. Another said that the unpredictability of the virus made it hard to call at this stage. Professor Salim Abdool Karim, a leading COVID expert who previously advised the South African government said,
We are not out of the pandemic but we have reached a different stage.
Mr. Karim, who is not on the WHO panel, said if the emergency status is lifted, governments should still maintain testing, vaccination and treatment programmes. Others said it was time to move to living with COVID as an on-going health threat, like HIV or tuberculosis. Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University in the United States, said,
All emergencies must come to an end. I expect WHO to end the public health emergency of international concern. If WHO does not end it… [this time], then certainly the next time the emergency committee meets.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.