While COVID-19 will likely be causing infections for many years to come, the end of the pandemic phase of the virus is “in sight,” said World Health Organization head Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Tedros likened the end of the COVID-19 pandemic to the conclusion of a marathon.
“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view. She runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we. We can see the finish line. We’re in a winning position. But now is the worst time to stop running,” Tedros said.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s the technical lead on COVID-19, noted the virus is still “intensely circulating” around the world. She said even as the world comes out of the pandemic phase of the virus, flare-ups are still possible. But her hope is that vaccines, treatments and other measures will make COVID-19 less severe.
“We expect that there are going to be future waves of infection, potentially at different time points throughout the world caused by different subvariants of omicron or even different variants of concern,” she said.
Globally, more than 6.5 million people have died with COVID-19 being a factor. The number of coronavirus-related deaths has largely remained steady worldwide since the spring.
The National Institutes of Health noted that the definition of a pandemic has nothing to do with its severity.
"The classical definition includes nothing about population immunity, virology or disease severity. By this definition, pandemics can be said to occur annually in each of the temperate southern and northern hemispheres, given that seasonal epidemics cross international boundaries and affect a large number of people. However, seasonal epidemics are not considered pandemics," the NIH said.