The Covid-19 pandemic is now sufficiently under control to lift the maximum level of alert, the WHO decided on Friday, after more than three years and millions of deaths, but for all that it is not a question of lowering the guard.
"It is with great hope that I declare that Covid-19 is no longer a health emergency of international concern," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the disease has " at least 20 million" deaths, a figure almost three times higher than that provided by his organization which only takes into account the number of officially declared deaths.
The experts he consulted on Thursday judged that "it was time to move on to long-term management of the pandemic" despite the uncertainties that remain about the evolution of the virus.
But "the worst thing a country can do now is use this news as a reason to let its guard down, dismantle the systems it has built, or send the message to its people that Covid-19 is not 'is nothing to worry about,' added the boss of the WHO.
The organization's highest level of alert was declared on January 30, 2020, just weeks after the first cases were detected in China.
However, it was not until Dr. Tedros spoke of a pandemic in March 2020 that States and populations became aware of the seriousness of the situation and that sometimes very restrictive health measures - up to long months of confinement - were put in place. place.
SARS-CoV-2 was by then already well underway on its deadly journey which would see it emerge very quickly around the world.
The fight against the pandemic was invented gradually, often out of order.
"One of the greatest tragedies" concerning the Covid-19, "is that it could have happened otherwise", launched Dr. Tedros, regretting "a lack of coordination, fairness and solidarity" and " lives lost that should not have been".
"We have to promise ourselves and our children and grandchildren that we will never make these mistakes again."
Even though the curve of Covid deaths has plunged - by 95% since January - the virus was still killing at the rate of one person every three minutes last week.
The crisis phase “has passed but not the Covid”, thus warned Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, in charge of the fight against Covid-19 within the WHO.
However, in many countries, the pandemic is now relegated to the background. Tests and health monitoring are reduced to the minimum portion. A disarmament deemed premature by the WHO.
The vaccines - which appeared in record time at the end of 2020 - remain effective against the most severe forms of the disease despite the countless mutations of the original virus.
Undeniable scientific success, these vaccines, in particular those with messenger RNA, were first monopolized by the countries which had the means to pay the high price, leaving the others on the floor for very long months.
As of April 30, more than 13.3 billion doses of vaccines had been injected, but antivax also mobilized en masse, helped by disinformation campaigns.
Economic inequalities and access to care have been brutally exposed.
The long queues of Brazilians with huge oxygen cylinders to save a loved one from asphyxiation, the countless pyres in India to burn the bodies and the exhausted caregivers, helpless in overwhelmed hospitals, marked the spirits.
In many countries, the pandemic is background noise, new variants continue to appear and threaten to restart the infernal machine.
And the long Covid, which results in a wide range of more or less disabling symptoms, is wreaking havoc.
According to Dr. Tedros, one in 10 infections results in a long Covid. A health crisis whose magnitude and economic and psychological cost are still poorly taken into account.
The world is now looking for the best way to avoid the next health disaster.
But the international community has not yet been able to determine with certainty how this virus had mutated into a form that can be transmitted between humans.
If, a priori, the first cases were detected at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China, two theories clash: leak from a laboratory in the city where these viruses were studied or intermediate animal having infected people who frequented a local market.
This last theory seems for the moment favored by the majority of the scientific community but the obstruction of the Chinese authorities prevents progress in the investigation of the origins.
At the WHO, member countries have also begun to discuss a future binding agreement that would better nip the next pandemic in the bud.
The question is not if but when it will happen.
05/05/2023 19:49:19 - Geneva (AFP) - © 2023 AFP