WHO discusses ending COVID-19’s global emergency as soon as possible.

  "When we enter the fourth year of the pandemic, we are definitely in a much better situation now than a year ago." Tan Desai said that at the peak of the Omicron epidemic, more than 70,000 deaths were reported to WHO every week. By last October, the number had dropped to less than 10,000, which was close to the lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic.

  On January 27th, Geneva time, the World Health Organization (WHO) held the 14th meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Emergency Committee on the COVID-19 (Covid-19) pandemic to discuss and evaluate whether the current COVID-19 pandemic still constitutes a public health emergency (PHEIC) of international concern. After the meeting, WHO Director-General Tan Desai will make a final decision according to the recommendations of the Committee. The relevant results are expected to be announced as early as January 30th.

  Three years ago, on January 30, 2020, WHO announced that the new coronavirus epidemic was a public health emergency of international concern, and issued the highest alert level of United Nations agencies. On March 11th of that year, WHO declared that the COVID-19 epidemic constituted a global pandemic.

  Thereafter, every few months, the emergency committee will hold a meeting to discuss whether the COVID-19 pandemic meets the standard called "public health emergencies of international concern". The 13th recent meeting was held on October 13th, 2022, and the outcome of the meeting still maintained the global emergency in COVID-19.

  According to the binding international treaty "International Health Regulations", public health emergencies of international concern need to meet three standards: serious, sudden, abnormal or unexpected; It may spread across national boundaries; It may require a coordinated international response.

  At the press conference held on December 14th last year, Tan Desai expressed the hope that "COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be a public health emergency of international concern" in 2023. According to reports, the criteria for ending the global emergency in COVID-19 will be discussed at the meeting of the WHO Emergency Committee in COVID-19 in January 2023.

  Does the current epidemic in China affect the decision?

  On January 27th, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made an opening speech at the meeting of the Emergency Committee in COVID-19, summarizing the current global epidemic situation.

  "When we enter the fourth year of the pandemic, we are definitely in a much better situation than a year ago." Tan Desai said that at the peak of the Omicron epidemic, more than 70,000 deaths were reported to WHO every week. By last October, the number had dropped to less than 10,000, which was close to the lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic.

  However, he pointed out that since the beginning of December last year, the number of deaths reported every week in the world has been rising. The lifting of restrictions in China has led to a sharp increase in the death toll in the world’s most populous country. "Last week, nearly 40,000 people reported to WHO died, more than half of them from China. In the past eight weeks, more than 170,000 deaths have been reported. The actual number is definitely much higher. " At present, WHO has updated the relevant data page (WHO COVID-19 Dashboard) to include the cases and deaths reported in China in recent weeks.

  Global data of infections and deaths in Covid-19. Source: WHO official website

  Margaret Harris, a WHO spokeswoman, told Caixin that on January 26th, 2023, China reported more cases and deaths to WHO. From December 9, 2022 to January 23, 2023, more than 87 million cases and more than 75,000 deaths were reported in China (excluding Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR and Taiwan Province). With these additional data, the cumulative number of cases worldwide has increased from more than 664 million to more than 751 million. The cumulative global death toll has risen from more than 6.7 million to nearly 6.8 million.

  Harris said that China CDC issued additional announcements on January 15th, 21st and 25th, but the data shared were not classified by date, so WHO could not include them in the report. When asked to what extent the information provided by China will affect the decision on whether to lift the state of emergency, Harris only said, "The Committee has reviewed all relevant global data on the issues under consideration."

  According to the website of China CDC, from December 8, 2022 to January 26, 2023, there were 78,960 cases of Covid-19-related deaths in hospitals nationwide, including 6,473 cases of respiratory failure caused by Covid-19 infection and 72,487 cases of basic diseases complicated with Covid-19 infection.

  Professor Zhang Style, head of the Department of Epidemiology and tenured professor at UCLA School of Public Health, recently said in a column that considering the future development and control of COVID-19 infection and severe death in China, it is unlikely that WHO will decide to terminate the state of emergency of "public health emergencies" at the meeting at the end of this month. He estimated that if COVID-19 infection and severe death in China were effectively controlled, WHO would declare the end of the state of emergency within this year. However, the possible sequelae caused by COVID-19 need to be further studied and effective methods should be adopted to prevent and treat them.

  Countries adjust epidemic prevention policies

  In his speech on January 27th, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out that there are still the following challenges:

  Vaccines, treatments and diagnostic methods are essential to prevent serious diseases, save lives and reduce the pressure on health systems and health workers. But the global response is still faltering, because in too many countries, these powerful life-saving tools have not yet reached the people who need them most — — Especially the elderly and health workers.

  Many health systems around the world are struggling to cope with COVID-19, in addition to taking care of patients with other diseases, including influenza and RSV, as well as health workers who are short of work and exhausted.

  At the same time, the global monitoring and gene sequencing have declined sharply, making it more difficult to track known mutations and detect new mutations. Constant errors and false information are weakening the public’s trust in safe and effective COVID-19 control tools.

  Liu Shansi, a Chinese virologist at Ohio State University and an academician of the American Academy of Microbiology, said in a recent interview with a reporter from the Science and Technology Department that the toxicity of Omicron has been weakened recently, which can be considered as a change from pandemic to endemic. "The overall trend of virus evolution is that the pathogenicity is getting weaker and weaker, although it will increase at some stages." He pointed out that it is still necessary to be alert to cross-population transmission in Covid-19 and gene recombination in Covid-19, but as long as this kind of situation does not occur, he hopes to see WHO announce the end of COVID-19’s "global pandemic" in 2023.

  In response to public health emergencies of international concern, WHO will issue a set of action suggestions to countries, including: strengthening surveillance to identify new cases, isolating cases and quarantining contacts; Take measures to screen at borders, airports, ports or entry points; Inform the public about the risks of the disease and the additional protective measures that individuals can take; And if there is no vaccine at present, additional research may be needed to develop treatments or vaccines.

  A few days ago, Japan and South Korea have successively adjusted their epidemic prevention levels or related epidemic prevention policies.

  On January 27th, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced that Covid-19 would be downgraded to "Category 5" in the Infectious Diseases Law on May 8th. After the change, the observation time of infected people and close contacts will be cancelled, and medical care will be transformed into a normal system in stages. In addition, it is up to the individual to decide whether to wear a mask indoors or outdoors.

  On January 20th, Korean Prime Minister Han Dezhu presided over an epidemic prevention meeting to discuss the adjustment of the indoor mandatory mask order. On January 30, the South Korean government announced that from now on, only people are advised to wear masks indoors, and it is no longer mandatory. The Korean government mask order was completely lifted after more than 27 months. However, medical institutions, pharmacies, high-risk places, public transport carriages, etc. will continue to maintain the obligation of indoor masks. For five high-risk situations, Korean epidemic prevention departments strongly recommend wearing masks.

  The government of China has also adjusted the infection of the new coronavirus from "Class A tube" to "Class B tube" from January 8th. Isolation measures will no longer be implemented for Covid-19 infected people, and close contacts will no longer be judged; No longer delimit high and low risk areas; No longer take quarantine and infectious disease management measures for entry personnel and goods. The detection strategy is adjusted to be willing to check and check.