The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is “in sight,” providing his most optimistic outlook on the health crisis that sent much of the world into lockdowns over the past two years.
“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” said Tedros at a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
Tedros’ assessment is the first optimistic prediction provided by the United Nations agency since it declared an international emergency in January 2020.
The COVID-19 virus, which was first detected in China in late 2019, has infected over 600 million people and killed nearly 6.5 million people worldwide.
The disease sent global economies into a spiral as governments moved to implement strict lockdowns and travel restrictions across the globe — a move that critics say caused more harm than good.
Months into the pandemic, governments moved to roll out numerous therapies and vaccines to stem hospitalizations and deaths, and the emergence of the Omicron variant in 2021 caused a less severe version of the disease to overtake its previous incarnations.
The WHO reported last week that deaths from COVID-19 were at their lowest since March 2020.
Despite the good news, Tedros called on nations to maintain vigilance and compared the pandemic to a marathon race.
“Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work,” he said, Reuters reported.
The WHO chief insisted that countries must evaluate their policies and strengthen them for COVID-19 or future illnesses. He also urged countries to vaccinate their high-risk populations and maintain testing protocols.