End of Covid pandemic ‘in sight’, says World Health Organization

The end of the Covid-19 pandemic is “in sight”, the World Health Organization has declared, after revealing that weekly deaths from the virus around the world were at the lowest level since March 2020.

The weekly global deaths figure on 5 September 2022 was 11,118, according to the WHO’s website. March 2020 was the month that the UK entered its first national lockdown.

The WHO also estimated that 19.8m deaths were averted in 2021 due to Covid-19 vaccines being administered and that 12bn doses had been given around the world.

However, it cautioned that coronavirus still posed an “acute global emergency” and highlighted that during the first eight months of 2022 more than 1 million people died from Covid-19.

The director general of the international health body, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a press conference: “Last week, the number of weekly reported deaths from Covid-19 was the lowest since March 2020.

“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic – we are not there yet, but the end is in sight.

“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view, she runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we.

“We can see the finish line, we’re in a winning position. But now is the worst time to stop running. Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”

Dr Ghebreyesus added: “If we don’t take this opportunity now, we run the risk of more variants, more deaths, more disruption and more uncertainty. So let’s seize this opportunity.”

The WHO has released six policy briefs that outline key actions that all governments must take.

The documents include guidance on testing, vaccination, best practice when managing the disease, maintaining infection control measures in health facilities, preventing the spread of misinformation, and community engagement.

One of the papers says: “With access to and appropriate use of existing life-saving tools, Covid-19 can become a manageable disease with significantly reduced morbidity and mortality.”

UK officials have confirmed that no plans are being made for people to be able to buy Covid-19 jabs privately.

The flu jab is offered annually to people in at-risk groups, with those who are not in these groups able to buy the vaccine privately, should they wish to do so.

But the Department of Health and Social Care told the GP magazine Pulse there were no plans to mimic this programme with a Covid vaccine, with supplies only available through the NHS.

Covid-19 infections in the UK have dropped to their lowest level for nearly 11 months.

A total of 944,700 people in private households are estimated to have had coronavirus in the week to 28 August, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It is the lowest UK-wide total since the week to 2 October 2021, when the number was 942,600.

Infections hit 3.8m in early July this year during the spread of the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, but have been on a broadly downward path in recent weeks.

In the week ending 2 September, 8,868 deaths were registered in England and Wales, and 314 mentioned “novel coronavirus”, accounting for 3.5% of deaths, according to the ONS data.

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