Three years to the day after the World Health Organization sounded the highest level of global alert over COVID-19, it said on Monday that the pandemic remains an international emergency.
The United Nation’s health agency emergency committee on COVID-19 voiced is assessment as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned that all countries remain “dangerously unprepared” for the next pandemic.
Despite three “brutal” years of the COVID-19 pandemic, strong preparedness systems are “severely lacking,” the IFRC said as it stressed that building trust, equity and local action networks were vital to get ready for the next crisis.
“All countries remain dangerously unprepared for future outbreaks,” the world’s largest humanitarian network said, concluding that governments are no more ready now than in 2019.
It said countries needed to be prepared for “multiple hazards, not just one,” saying societies only became truly resilient through planning for different types of disaster, as they can occur simultaneously.
After meeting for the 14th time since the start of the crisis, the WHO’s committee on COVID-19 said that WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus “concurs with the advice offered by the committee regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and determines that the event continues to constitute a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC),” its highest form of alert.
Tedros “acknowledges the committee’s views that the COVID-19 pandemic is probably at a transition point and appreciates the advice of the committee to navigate this transition carefully and mitigate the potential negative consequences.”
Globally, more than 752 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported to the WHO, including more than 6.8 million deaths, though the UN agency always stresses that the true numbers are likely much higher.
As we transition out of the pandemic and the global public health emergency, we should do so with the warning bells still ringing loudly. The IFRC has reason to say that despite our harrowing experiences over the past 3 years, we are still dangerously unprepared, meaning we still haven’t learned the necessary lessons.
It’s not too late to force ourselves to learn the necessary lessons so we can be better prepared as we expect the end of pandemic, fully knowing that another one will most likely come soon, whether we are ready or not.*