GENEVA, Switzerland The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday warned that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to last after its emergency committee met to assess the crisis six months after the international alarm sounded.
The committee noted the long-awaited duration of this COVID-19 pandemic, WHO said in a statement, and warned of the risk of response fatigue given the socio-economic pressures on countries.
The panel met for the fourth time on Friday due to the coronavirus crisis, half a year after its announcement on January 30th for a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) WHOs the highest level of alarm.
“The WHO continues to assess the level of global risk of COVID-19 as very high,” she said in her latest statement.
The Committee highlighted the long anticipated duration of this COVID-19 pandemic, citing the importance of ongoing community, national, regional and global response efforts.
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 680,000 people and infected at least 17.6 million since the outbreak appeared in China last December, according to a report by official sources compiled by AFP.
Surprisingly, the panel, consisting of 18 members and 12 councilors, unanimously agreed that the pandemic still constituted a FHEIK.
Crisis fatigue warning
Some countries of the world have imposed severe blockades in an effort to control the spread of respiratory disease, plunging economies into sharp contractions.
The Committee asked the WHO to provide nuanced, pragmatic guidance on COVID-19 responses to reduce the risk of response fatigue in the context of socio-economic pressures.
The Panel called on the WHO to support countries in preparing the proven portion of therapies and vaccines.
The committee also urged the agency to expedite searches for remaining critical unknowns of the virus, such as the animal source and potential animal reservoirs.
She called for a better understanding of the epidemiology and severity of COVID-19, including its long-term effects on health.
And the committee wanted more light on the dynamics of the virus, such as modes of transmission, shedding, possible mutations; immunity and defense bonds.
The upcoming six-hour meeting was hosted at WHO headquarters in Geneva, with several participants joining the video link.
The committee will be re-established in three months time.
The effects were felt for decades
WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the effects of the pandemic would be long lasting.
The rebuke of the thought that six months ago, when you recommended me declare a PHEIC, there were less than 100 cases and no deaths outside China, he said on Friday.
The pandemic is a health crisis sometime in a century, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come.
Many scientific questions have been solved; many remain to be answered, Tedros said Friday.
Most people in the world remain susceptible to this virus, even in areas that have experienced severe outbreaks.
South Africa is by far the most affected country in Africa, accounting for more than half of all infections diagnosed, though President Cyril Ramaphosa said the mortality rate is lower than the global average.
Health authorities had expected an increase in cases following the gradual lifting of a strict blockade imposed in late March.
Nigeria on Saturday also announced it would ease a deadlock in the commercial capital Lagos, allowing churches and mosques to reopen next week.
Mexico overtook Britain to become the third most affected country in virus deaths after Brazil and the United States with more than 46,600 fatalities.
Although many Latin American countries have begun calming home stay measures, the virus is still spreading rapidly across much of the region, which has now recorded more than four million cases and nearly 200,000 deaths.
Half of them are in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro said he believes almost everyone will catch the virus eventually, once he recovers from it himself.
61,262 cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours
The United States counted 61,262 new cases of the coronavirus in the 24 hours leading up to 8:30 a.m. Saturday (0030 GMT Sunday), according to an announcement from Johns Hopkins University.
It was the fifth day in a row with more than 60,000 infections registered, according to Baltimore-based university. There were also 1,051 deaths in the 24-hour period.
Now the US has handled more than 4.6 million cases and 154,319 deaths, making it the most hit country in the world.
The view was harsh even in Asia, where India and the Philippines reported record increases in new daily infections.
“We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and need to draw up a consolidated, final action plan,” said an open letter signed by 80 Philippine medical associations.
Japan’s Okinawa has declared a state of emergency following a record jump in cases on the islands – closely linked to US military forces stationed there.
The pandemic has sparked a race for a vaccine with several Chinese companies at the forefront, while Russia has set a target date of September to traverse its drug.
However, U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said his country is unlikely to use any vaccine developed in each nation.
“I hope the Chinese and Russians are actually testing the vaccine before administering the vaccine to anyone,” he said.
As part of “Operation Warp Speed,” the U.S. government will pay pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and GSK up to $ 2.1 billion to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, the companies said.
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