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The global alert is lifted for the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s not all over yet…

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The Covid-19 pandemic is now sufficiently under control to lift the maximum level of alert, the World Health Organization decided on Friday, after more than three years and millions of deaths. However, it is not a question of lowering our guard because the virus is always present and new variants remain possible.

“We have never been better placed to end the pandemic. We are not there yet, but the end is in sight”: last September, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was optimistic and sketched, for the end of 2022, the end of the Covid-19 epidemic which has brought the world to its knees.

We had to wait a few more months: it was only this Friday that the WHO lifted the maximum level of alert, triggered on January 30, 2020, a few weeks after the appearance of the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus in China. . The term pandemic did not appear until March 2020, triggering restrictions and containment measures all over the world.

The pandemic is not over yet

“It is with great hope that I declare that Covid-19 is no longer a health emergency of international concern,” said the Director General of WHO, estimating that the disease has claimed “at least 20 million of deaths, a figure almost three times higher than that provided by his organization… but which only takes into account the number of officially declared deaths.

This lifting of the maximum alert is obviously an important milestone in the management of the pandemic which is not yet over, however. Because if the experts judged that “it was time to move on to a long-term management of the pandemic” despite the uncertainties that remain on the evolution of the virus, “the worst thing that a country can do now is to use this news as a reason to let his guard down, dismantle the systems he has built, or send the message to his people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about,” Dr Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

This lifting of the alert was expected since the number of deaths caused by Covid-19 has dropped by 95% since the start of the year, according to WHO data. But the virus is still there, and we continue to die from it: the Covid was still killing at the rate of one person every three minutes last week.

Number of deaths due to Covid

Number of deaths due to Covid

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, in charge of the fight against Covid-19 within the WHO, explained that the crisis phase “has passed but not the Covid”, many States are easing their measures, unison of their populations who want to turn the page. Testing and health surveillance – once draconian and systematic – are gradually disappearing.

In the United States, President Joe Biden has ratified a law passed by Congress, “ending the national state of emergency related to the Covid-19 pandemic” and the state of health emergency will be lifted this Thursday May 11. “We are no longer in the same phase of response to the pandemic as when these obligations were put in place”, assures the White House. The end of the American health emergency will also sign the lifting of the vaccination obligation to go to American soil.

New Variants and Upcoming Epidemics

While the Covid-related health pass has not been in effect since 1er August 2022 in France, the systematic wearing of a mask in hospitals and in medico-social establishments is no longer compulsory, even if the other barrier measures remain in force. And on Friday, the National Assembly voted to repeal the anti-Covid vaccination obligation for caregivers, rather than simply suspending it.

These reliefs and these rapid relaxations raise questions all the same because if in many countries, the pandemic is background noise, the long Covid, which results in a wide range of more or less disabling symptoms, is wreaking havoc and new variants continue to appear – like Arcturus in India – and threaten to restart the infernal machine.

New pandemics are unfortunately possible. Will we be better prepared for it? At the WHO, member countries have begun to discuss a future binding agreement that would better nip the next pandemic in the bud. A long scientific and diplomatic work.

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