The World Health Organization is eyeing to end the global health emergency on COVID-19 by the end of the year, an official said, even as she acknowledged that more needs to be done given the “still high” pandemic numbers.
“Our goal, that we laid out in the latest Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, was to end the emergency of COVID by the end of this year,” WHO’s COVID-19 Technical Lead Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said.
“We’re not quite there yet,” she added.
WHO data showed the global tally for COVID-19 fatalities from Oct. 3 to 9 was at 9,002, slightly higher than the previous week’s 8,300 reported deaths.
“We are still seeing some decline, potentially a stabilization in deaths. But last week alone, 9,002 people lost their lives to COVID-19 that we know about and it’s probably a higher number than that. That’s really quite a high number,” she said.
The WHO’s Emergency Committee on COVID-19 convened Friday (Manila time) to deliberate on the pandemic situation.
“The virus is here to stay with us. We have to live with it responsibly. The pandemic itself will end, but it’s just not over yet,” Van Kerkhove said.
The Philippines on Sunday logged 2,321 new COVID-19 cases – the fourth straight day of more than 2,000 new infections recorded.
The death toll rose by 33 to 63,510.
According to the Department of Health, the regions with the most cases in the last two weeks were the National Capital Region with 10,399 followed by Calabarzon with 5,228 and Central Luzon with 2,745.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante said COVID-19 may already be in an endemic state in the country if the positivity rate is less than 10 percent, the healthcare utilization rate is less than 50 percent, and at least 50 percent of the population have received their booster shots against the disease.
“If you look at what we’re doing now, mobility has increased, workplace capacity is already 100 percent, public transportation is already 100 percent. So, we’re on that way already,” Solante said.
Solante, however, warned the new COVID-19 Omicron subvariant XBB may already have entered the country due to eased border restrictions for travelers.
“We cannot rule that out because first of all, the samples we are testing now for sequencing are not that many anymore. Second, we have an open border,” he said.
“There’s a possibility that this variant can also be present here, but we don’t just know as it hasn’t been detected yet by the Philippine Genome Center,” he added.
The XBB is a recombinant of the BJ.1 (BA.2.10.1 sublineage) and BM.1.1.1 (BA.2.75 sublineage).
The DOH said the XBB sublineage “shows higher immune evasion ability than BA.5.”