Expect ‘lengthy’ coronavirus pandemic, warns WHO

GENEVA (AFP) – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday warned the coronavirus pandemic was likely to be “lengthy” after its emergency committee met to evaluate the crisis six months after sounding the international alarm.

The committee “highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 pandemic”, the WHO said in a statement, and warned of the risk of “response fatigue” given the socio-economic pressures on countries.

The panel gathered on Friday for the fourth time over the coronavirus crisis, half a year on from its January 30 declaration of a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) – the WHO’s highest level of alarm.

“WHO continues to assess the global risk level of COVID-19 to be very high,” it said following the meeting.

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 680,000 people and infected at least 17.6 million since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

Unsurprisingly, the panel, comprising 17 members and 12 advisors, unanimously agreed that the pandemic still constituted a PHEIC. Several countries around the world have imposed strict lockdowns in a bid to control the spread of the respiratory disease, plunging economies into sharp contraction.

The committee urged the WHO to provide nuanced, pragmatic guidance on COVID-19 management “to reduce the risk of response fatigue in the context of socio-economic pressures”.

The panel urged the WHO to support countries in preparing for the rollout of proven therapeutics and vaccines.

The committee also urged the agency to accelerate research into the remaining “critical unknowns” of the virus, such as the animal source of the disease and potential animal reservoirs.