WHO to decide if Covid pandemic remains a global emergency on January 27

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is set to decide whether the Covid pandemic is still classified as a global emergency. The organisation is holding a meeting on Friday, January 27 to consider changing its classification. The move comes three years after a global emergency was declared.

According to Reuters, WHO spokesperson Carla Drysdale confirmed the scheduled meeting at a Geneva press briefing. The Emergency Committee has been advising the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, over his ultimate decision to make such a classification. A Public Health Emergency of International Concern, which is what the Covid pandemic has been categorised under, is the UN agency’s highest level of alert.

But, a handful of WHO advisers and leading scientists say it may be too early to de-classify the pandemic as a global health emergency because of a high number of infections coming out of China, which loosened its zero-Covid policy last month.

Meanwhile, WHO officials are advising countries to consider recommending air passengers wear masks on long-haul flights to reduce the transmission of the latest Omicron subvariant of the virus. The subvariant has rapidly spread across the US with many reporting serious symptoms.

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Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, agreed with the overall recommendations.

“This should be a recommendation issued to passengers arriving from anywhere where there is widespread Covid-19 transmission.”

Omicron’s XBB.1.5 subvariant is reportedly the most transmissible so far. The WHO says it accounts for 27.6% of Covid cases in the US. But, experts say it is unclear if it will cause its own wave of infections across the world.

Experts say that current vaccines continue to protect against hospitalisation, severe symptoms and death.

Many countries around the world have re-introduced Covid measures in light of China’s recent move to drop its notoriously strict Zero Covid policy. Thailand, re-introduced the requirement for incoming travellers to be fully vaccinated, but then backpedalled on the requirement shortly after.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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