WHO Chief Strikes Optimistic Tone On COVID: ‘The End Is In Sight’

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The World Health Organization head said the end of the COVID-19 pandemic “is in sight,” saying reported global deaths last week reached their lowest point since March 2020.

Speaking at the U.N. agency’s COVID briefing on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “we have never been in a better position to end the pandemic.”

“We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” he said.

For the week starting on Sept. 5, the agency recorded over 11,000 deaths worldwide, a 22% decrease from the week before. Global case numbers also fell by 28% from the previous week.

As of Sept. 13, the U.S. had the world’s highest number of reported deaths in the previous seven days, and the second-highest number of reported cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected that COVID deaths in the U.S. “will remain stable or have an uncertain trend” over the next four weeks.

Tedros cautioned that we still risk more variants, more deaths and further uncertainty.

“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view; she runs harder with all the energy she has left,” he said. “So must we. We can see the finish line, we are in a winning position, but now is the worst time to stop running.”

He added that WHO the agency has released six briefs laying out what governments around the world need to do to “finish the race” and prepare for “future pathogens with pandemic potential.”

“We urge all countries to invest in vaccinating 100% of the most at-risk groups, including health workers and older people at the highest priority on the road to 70% vaccine coverage,” he said.

He added that leaders around the world should continue testing for COVID, and integrate surveillance for the virus with other respiratory diseases.

The WHO chief also spoke about government actions to effectively communicate the evolution of the response to COVID.

“Communicate clearly with communities about any changes you make to your COVID-19 policies and why,” he said.

Tedros added that governments should prioritize training health workers to identify and tackle misinformation around COVID and also make available high-quality information online.

In the U.S., the CDC earlier this month authorized a booster targeting the original strain of the virus along with omicron subvariants, including BA.4 and BA.5. The White House also announced the government has stopped providing free COVID tests due to a lack of funding.

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