New COVID assessment to facilitate global travel and trade: experts

Wan Lixin
The World Health Organization has stated that the COVID-19 pandemic no longer constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the WHO's highest alert level.
Wan Lixin

The World Health Organization has stated that the COVID-19 pandemic no longer constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the WHO's highest alert level.

The organization first gave COVID-19 its highest level of alert on January 30, 2020, and a panel of global health experts has continued to apply the label ever since at meetings held every three months.

A number of Chinese health experts shared their insights into the implications of this new assessment, with particular emphasis on its impacts in and outside China.

Asked to explain the new assessment, Liang Wannian, head of the COVID-19 response expert panel at China's National Health Commission, cited four factors.

Firstly, the number of globally reported new cases, whether in terms of the infected, the hospitalized, those in ICU or those who have succumbed to the disease, have all been declining steadily.

Secondly, although the virus continues mutating, the new strains' adverse impacts on human health remain more or less unchanged.

Thirdly, globally, the extensive infections and vaccinations among people have boosted human response in terms of herd immunity.

Fourthly, the past three years, with the strengthening of the global health-care and public health systems, have seen improvement in global pandemic responses, whether in human resources, or in medical equipment and medicine.

All these suggest that human immune responses to the virus in general have achieved a balanced level that meets the basic requirements for declaring an end to the Public Health Emergency of International Concern for COVID-19.

Liang added this latest assessment suggests that currently humans could effectively bring the damages of the disease under control.

Of course, Liang said, this does not suggest a laissez faire attitude to pandemic, for while the virus still exists, there is still need for global cooperation in implementing measures that might afford better protection to human health.

Shi Guoqing, deputy director of the Emergency Center of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, agreed that the new WHO assessment does not mean the end of the pandemic, and there is still need for pandemic prevention, because the virus is still spreading in our midst.

Liang also explained that this would lead to further reduction or even elimination of the restrictions imposed previously on international transportation, trade and travel.

He said efforts should be made in several directions. First, there should be more effective monitoring of the new strains of the pandemic and more effective responses, with a view to building a more effective public health system. Secondly, high-risk people and people in need of special care should pay attention to vaccination. Thirdly, there should be beefed up medical competence to handle clinic cases, particular severe cases, of COVID-19. Fourthly, people should pay attention to hygiene.

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