WHO chief: End of COVID-19 pandemic is ‘in sight’

Photo taken on Jan 22, 2020 shows an exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. (LIU QU/XINHUA)

FRANKFURT/ LONDON / LISBON -The world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, his most optimistic outlook yet on the years-long health crisis which has killed over six million people.

The COVID-19 has killed nearly 6.5 million people and infected 606 million, roiling global economies and overwhelming healthcare systems

"We are not there yet. But the end is in sight," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a virtual press conference.

That was the most upbeat assessment from the UN agency since it declared an international emergency in January 2020 and started describing COVID-19 as a pandemic three months later.

The virus has killed nearly 6.5 million people and infected 606 million, roiling global economies and overwhelming healthcare systems.

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The rollout of vaccines and therapies have helped to stem deaths and hospitalisations, and the Omicron variant which emerged late last year causes less severe disease. Deaths from COVID-19 last week were the lowest since March 2020, the UN agency reported.

Still on Wednesday, he again urged nations to maintain their vigilance and likened the pandemic to a marathon race.

"Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work."

Countries need to take a hard look at their policies and strengthen them for COVID-19 and future viruses, Tedros said. He also urged nations to vaccinate 100 percent of their high-risk groups and keep testing for the virus.

This file photo taken on June 11, 2021 shows the entrance of the European Medicines Agency headquarters in Amsterdam. (FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

European Medicines Agency

People in Europe should take whatever COVID-19 booster is available to them in the coming months, Emer Cooke, Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency, said in a Reuters Next Newsmaker interview ahead of an expected autumn rise in infections.

Apart from the original COVID vaccines, the EMA has endorsed a number of Omicron-adapted vaccines in recent weeks.

"The approach that we've taken in Europe is to have a plurality of options because we recognize that the needs in different member states may be different," she said, suggesting that countries will likely kick off their campaigns at different times or combine their rollouts with flu shots.

People may have the opportunity to choose their booster, Cooke said, "but really, a lot depends on what's available in your jurisdiction."

"My message is have confidence in whatever vaccines are offered to you," she added.

A sign shows the way to the COVID-19 emergency ward at the Santa Maria hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, Jan 18, 2021. (ARMANDO FRANCA / AP)


The average daily number of COVID-19 infections in Portugal has dropped to 2,468, the lowest number recorded this year, the Ricardo Jorge Institute reported on Wednesday.

The previous lowest daily average was 2,527 infections and the highest was 49,795, registered in late January this year.

The COVID-19 reproduction number, which indicates the number of secondary cases of infection resulting from each person carrying the virus, currently stands at 0.98, with no significant changes compared to the previous week.

The INSA estimates that, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Portugal has already had 5,447,844 COVID-19 infections.

The 2022-2023 autumn-winter vaccination campaign against influenza and COVID-19 started in the country on Sept 7.

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