The globe is on the right path to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, with countries having recorded the lowest number of infections – the first time since March 2020.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus gave the good news during a media briefing yesterday. He said the world has never been in a better position, but he did have a warning.

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, and so must we. We can see the finish line. We are in a winning position but now is the worst time to stop running.”

Since the first case was detected in 2019 in China, the coronavirus has claimed the lives of over 6.5 million people. In South Africa, 102 000 deaths have been recorded. 

‘Let’s seize this opportunity’

“Now is the time to run harder and ensure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work. If we don’t take this opportunity, we risk more variants, deaths, disruption, and uncertainty. So, let’s seize this opportunity,” he said.

To help equip countries to end COVID-19, the WHO has released six short policy briefs outlining key actions. Based on the evidence and experience of the last 32 months, it’s a summary of what works best to save lives, protect health systems, and avoid social and economic disruption.

‘Invest in vaccinating’

“These policy briefs are an urgent call for governments to take a hard look at their policies and strengthen them for COVID-19 and 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, as the highest priority on the road to 70% vaccine coverage,” stated Ghebreyesus.

He also urged countries to ensure they have a system to give patients the proper care for COVID-19 and integrate this into their primary health care systems. Countries must plan for case surges and ensure they have the necessary supplies, equipment, and health workers. Infection prevention and control precautions must be maintained to protect health workers and non-COVID patients in health facilities.

“Communicate clearly with communities about changes you make to your COVID-19 policies. Train health workers to identify and address misinformation and develop high-quality health information in digital formats. The briefs contain more detail on the specific actions governments can take and are now available online,” added Ghebreyesus.

What COVID-19 taught us

According to South African Epidemiologist Prof Salim Abdool Karim, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that countries must always provide the available evidence to the public.

“Trust people with the hard truths; don’t hide uncertainty. You must provide the available evidence with its uncertainty and don’t patronise. Convey information with clarity on what the facts are and what the conjectures are. And do not cherry-pick evidence to suit viewpoints and explain where the science produces different results and is not yet settled,” said Karim. – Health-e News