The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight: WHO chief

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The world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, urging nations to continue their efforts against the virus that has killed more than six million people.

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“We’re not there yet. But the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a virtual news conference.

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The comment was the most upbeat from the UN agency since it declared COVID-19 an international emergency and began describing the virus as a pandemic in March 2020.

The virus, which emerged in China in late 2019, has killed nearly 6.5 million people and infected 606 million, shaking global economies and overwhelming health systems.

The introduction of vaccines and therapies have helped to halt the severity of the disease. Deaths from COVID-19 last week were the lowest since March 2020, the UN agency said.

Still, countries should take a hard look at their policies and strengthen them for COVID-19 and future viruses, Tedros said. He also urged nations to vaccinate 100 percent of their high-risk groups and continue testing for the virus.

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The WHO warned of the possibility of future waves of the virus and said countries must maintain adequate supplies of medical equipment and health workers.

“We expect there to be future waves of infections, potentially at different time points around the world, caused by different sub-variants of Omicron or even different variants of concern,” said WHO senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.

Monkeypox cases were also on a downward trend, but Tedros urged countries to continue the fight.

WHO officials said last month that it is possible to eliminate the monkeypox epidemic in Europe by stepping up vaccination and testing.

“As with COVID-19, now is not the time to relax or let our guard down.”

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