GENEVA - An Emergency Committee on COVID-19 was convened by the World Health Organization to assess the current status of the pandemic. It is calling for global solidarity in supporting efforts to contain it.
Not surprisingly, the Emergency Committee for the fourth time has unanimously agreed that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. When the Committee first made this declaration on January 30, there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths outside China.
Now, six months later, the World Health Organization is reporting more than 17 million cases globally, including more than 750,000 deaths, with more than half the number of cases and deaths occurring in the Americas.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says this is a sobering reminder of the gargantuan task that lies ahead.
"The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come," he said. "Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks."
The nearly three dozen experts and advisers who met virtually have come up with a range of recommendations to guide national and international efforts to combat the pandemic. One is to coordinate regional and global commitments to the development of vaccines and therapeutics.
Tedros understands the hopes vested in finding a safe and effective vaccine and medications to treat the disease. However, he cautions people to lower their expectations.
"Although vaccine development is happening at record speed, we must learn to live with this virus, and we must fight it with the tools we have," he said.
The Emergency Committee says public health and social measures are some of the best tools that communities have for fighting the new coronavirus. These involve testing, tracing, social distancing, wearing masks and handwashing.
The Committee advises states to maintain active community-based COVID-19 surveillance systems. It calls upon them to share information on travel measures based on risk assessments so international travel can safely resume. It also urges states to counter misinformation and false information about COVID-19 that undermine efforts to combat the pandemic.