Is COVID over or is the world over COVID?

Article published 15 May 2023

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Is COVID over or is the world over COVID?

The World Health Organisation says the COVID-19 pandemic is now over and that COVID is now a killer, like influenza. Caution is still needed.

FOR some COVID is a distant memory, for many it’s a continuing threat.

It is “with great hope that I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency”, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the beginning of May.

Then he made it clear the danger was not over. “This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it’s still changing,” he said.

Killer virus

The WHO estimates that COVID-19 killed “at least 20 million”, three times the nearly seven million deaths officially recorded.

“This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it’s still changing,” the WHO says.

“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.”

30 January 2020 was the date on which the WHO first declared there was a problem. Six weeks later, it declared a pandemic, which is an epidemic spread over multiple bordering countries or over continents, as in the case of COVID-19.

Even though COVID-19 deaths globally have plunged 95 per cent since January this year, the disease remains a major killer. One life is still lost to COVID-19 every three minutes.

After the pandemic

Vaccines were developed at record speed and became available in late 2020. They still offer good protection, much like the flu vaccine does for the flu.

Anti-viral treatments are now available to treat those who fall seriously ill with COVID-19.

The horrors of long lines of people waiting for oxygen for relatives gasping for air and the funeral pyres that crammed footpaths in Delhi are now gone.

The world is now trying to put in place measures to help avert future global health catastrophes.

But those efforts are being hampered by heated debate around the origins of the pandemic.

The virus was first detected in late 2019 in Wuhan China. It remains unclear how and where it first began spreading among humans.

Scientists are split on the issue of the virus’s origin. One school of thought theorises that the virus jumped naturally to humans from animals. Another school of thought maintains that the virus likely leaked from a Wuhan laboratory, where it had been the object of research.

The WHO and its member states are now talking about an international treaty to draw lessons from the mistakes made and ensure the world reacts more effectively and equitably to the next one.

Because the question whether there will be a new virus threatening global health is not a hypothetical question but a very real one.

Those who have reason to fear COVID-19

For those with medical conditions that can be exacerbated by a COVID-19 infection to the point where they are permanently incapacitated or where they die, COVID-19 is not over, even though it doesn’t threaten countries and continents any longer.

Those people should be supported in practical ways. This means social distancing should continue to be practised. Most of all, those who know that COVID-19 continues to be a threat against their lives should be respected for the measures they take to protect themselves, even though the world has relaxed.

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