The coronavirus (COVID-19) remains a risk despite the World Health Organization's declaration of an end to the global emergency, a top health official in China said, noting that China will continue to monitor the virus and increase vaccinations among high-risk groups.
The World Health Organization (WHO) ended its highest level of COVID-19 preparedness on Friday, more than three years after its original announcement, saying countries must now deal with the virus like other infectious diseases.
Liang Wanyan, chairman of the National Health Commission's COVID-19 expert committee, said ending the state of emergency does not mean COVID-19 will disappear, but its impact can now be effectively controlled.
China will continue to monitor virus mutations, promote vaccines among high-risk groups, and look forward to improving treatment capabilities against the disease, he said.
China stuck to the "zero Covid" policy for a long time after most countries began to live with the virus, and only began to abandon its restrictive policies in late 2022.
In February, China's top leaders declared a "decisive victory" against the coronavirus and recorded the lowest death rate in the world, but experts questioned China's data.
The World Health Organization announced on Friday that Covid-19 is under sufficient control to raise the maximum alert associated with it after more than 3 years of the spread of this epidemic, which has caused millions of deaths, but warned that it must not be complacent.
"With great hope I declare that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, estimating that the pandemic has killed "at least 20 million people", a toll three times higher than official estimates.
Experts consulted by the Director-General considered that "the time has come to move to long-term management of the COVID-19 pandemic" despite the uncertainty that remains associated with the evolution of this virus.
"The worst thing a country can do now is use this declaration as a reason to let its guard down, dismantle the systems it has created, or send a message to its people that COVID-19 is no longer a concern," Tedros said.
"One of the biggest tragedies" about COVID-19 "is that this could have gone differently," he said, lamenting "the lack of coordination, equity and solidarity" and "the loss of lives that should not have been lost."
"We have to promise ourselves, our children and our grandchildren that we will never make these mistakes again."
Although the curve of deaths from COVID-19 has fallen significantly since January, the virus continues to cause deaths at a pace of one person every 3 minutes last week.
Maria Van Kerkhove, who has been in charge of fighting the pandemic at the World Health Organization since its inception, told reporters that "we cannot let our guard down," explaining that "the crisis phase, the emergency phase, is over, but COVID-19 is not over."
But in many countries, the epidemic has faded and health screenings and surveillance have been kept to a minimum, which the WHO considers premature.
The vaccines, which appeared in record time at the end of 2020, remain effective against the most severe forms of the disease despite the many mutations of the original virus.
Vaccines that, of course, have been a major scientific success, particularly those powered by mRNA technology, which was used for the first time, were initially monopolized by countries that were able to pay their high price, leaving others for months without access to them.
As of April 30, 2023, more than 13.3 billion doses of the vaccine have been injected. There has also been a major mobilization by opponents of the vaccine, casting doubt on vaccinations in general and backed by widespread social media campaigns.
"The virus continues to mutate and is still capable of causing new waves of infections and deaths," the WHO chief recently said, noting its long-term repercussions.
Origin of the virus
The world is now looking for the best way to avoid any potential health catastrophe in the future, but the international community has not yet been able to determine how the coronavirus mutated into a form that can be transmitted between humans.
If the first cases were detected at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China, there are two opposing theories: a leak from a laboratory in the city where the virus was being studied, or transmission through an intermediate animal that infected people who were frequenting a local market.
The latter theory currently seems more likely by the majority of the scientific community, but Chinese authorities are accused of putting obstacles in the investigation into the origin of the virus.
At WHO, Member States have also begun to discuss a future binding agreement that would allow epidemics to be eradicated as soon as they arise and to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
The main stations of the Corona crisis in the world
From the onset of the pandemic at the end of 2019 to the lifting of the health emergency by the World Health Organization on Friday, the following are the most prominent milestones of Covid-19:
On 31 December 2019, WHO observed alarming cases of uncommon pneumonia in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
On January 2020, 4, the cause was identified, which is a new virus of the Corona strain. Four days later, Beijing announced its first official death. On the 23rd of it, I imposed a quarantine on Wuhan.
Declaring it a pandemic
On March 2020, 100, the number of people officially infected with the epidemic exceeded 11,<> worldwide, and on March <>, the World Health Organization officially described the epidemic as a "pandemic."
Italy, the first European country to be affected, imposed a lockdown in the north and then extended to the rest of the country. On 16 March, Germany called on residents to "stay at home" and the UK to avoid all "social contacts", and France announced a lockdown on 17 March. In this context, the European Union has closed its external borders.
Humanity is isolated
In early April, more than 3.9 billion people (half of humanity) were forced or asked to self-quarantine, and according to an AFP count, more than one million infections were reported.
The stock market also collapsed and entire sectors of the global economy such as transport and tourism came to a halt. Governments and central banks announced the first major measures to support the economy.
Vaccines in record time
Vaccines were developed in record time, the first doses were given at the end of 2020 in the United States and Europe, and after a timid start, vaccination campaigns accelerated significantly during 2021, in Western countries.
But globally, access to the vaccine has remained uneven: Africa has a very low vaccination rate of 24% versus 64% worldwide (WHO figures in autumn 2022).
Search for the origin of the epidemic
In January and February 2021, a WHO delegation investigated the origin of the new coronavirus in China, without reaching a conclusion. The World Health Organization (WHO) called on all countries to disseminate the information available to them, especially China and the United States.
The scientific community largely believes that the epidemic began because an animal transmitted the virus to humans, possibly at the Huanan market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. But researchers and U.S. officials have suggested that the virus leaked from a lab, apparently from the Wuhan Institute.
Delta and Omicron. Dangerous variants
The Delta variant led to massive deaths in April and May 2021 in India, which has become the third most affected country in the world. It caused a new outbreak of the epidemic, especially in Russia.
At the end of November, the more contagious Omicron variant that emerged in South Africa caused a wave of panic. It spread around the world in early 2022, causing record infections but with less severe symptoms.
Gradually lifting measures
In March 2022, the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 pandemic could recede this year to the point where the risk it poses is similar to that of seasonal influenza.
Countries have gradually lifted their health emergency and measures to combat COVID-19. China specifically reissued visas and the end of compulsory vaccination to enter the United States or to caregivers in France in May.
Lifting the state of health emergency
On May 2023, 20, the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to lift the state of health emergency. Its director-general estimated that the pandemic had killed "at least 3 million people", a toll three times higher than official estimates.