The World Health Organization (WHO) has now classified the COVID-19 coronavirus as an entrenched health problem and intends to provide updated recommendations for combating it, the organization said in a press release.
“Director General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus has ruled that COVID-19 is now an entrenched and persistent public health problem. It is no longer a public health emergency of international significance,” the document states.
“It will convene the International Health Regulations Review Committee to advise on standing recommendations for a long-term response to COVID-19,” WHO said.
Gebreyesus will consult in light of WHO’s 2023-2025 plans for responding to COVID-19. These include measures for countries around the world to jointly monitor the spread of the coronavirus and protect populations from infection. WHO advises countries to adhere to this plan during the transition to updated coronavirus control methods.
The list of temporary recommendations includes preparing for future COVID-19 outbreaks, introducing coronavirus vaccination into lifelong immunization programs, gathering information from various surveillance data sources for a complete picture of the spread of the disease, ensuring access to treatment for COVID-19 and diagnostics for the disease. In addition, WHO advises continuing to lift travel restrictions and not requiring any evidence of vaccination.
At the same time, the WHO said, “member countries are currently negotiating an agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and control.” In particular, they are talking about amendments to the International Health Regulations. For example, Dr. Michael Ryan, director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, commenting on the negotiations, said that there should never be a repeat of cases where patients could not even get to the emergency room.
Earlier Friday, Gebreyesus announced that the WHO no longer views the COVID-19 coronavirus as a global health threat. However, he clarified that this does not mean that the threat of the coronavirus is completely gone.
He added that during the three years of the pandemic, experts have recorded nearly 7 million deaths due to infection with the coronavirus.
“But we know that the number of deaths is actually several times higher – at least 20 million,” the WHO chief stressed.
According to the Worldometers statistics website, more than 687 million people worldwide were infected with the coronavirus during the pandemic, with more than 660 million COVID-19 cures recorded. The first place in the number of infections is occupied by the U.S. with more than 106.7 million, the second is India, where almost 45 million cases of infection with COVID-19 were identified, and the third is France with about 40 million cases.
Booster vaccinations against COVID-19 increase protection against severe forms of the disease, including infections from the latest mutations of the virus, but their effect wanes quickly, Le Figaro newspaper reported Tuesday, citing a study.
“Repeated doses increased protection against the risk of hospitalization, but this protection proved to be limited in time,” the publication quotes a report prepared under the auspices of the National Agency for Drug Safety and the insurance fund Assurance maladie.
The publication notes that this is the latest in a series of studies on the effectiveness of anticoviral vaccines since their introduction. Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are mainly used in France. They have been shown to be effective against severe forms of the disease, although they “marginally reduce the risk of subsequent infection in the medium or long term.”
However, even for cases requiring hospitalization, efficacy tends to decline over time, causing the country’s health authorities to organize booster vaccination campaigns with the third, fourth and already the fifth dose.
At the same time, writes Le Figaro, there is still insufficient data on the real benefit of these sequential booster vaccinations, especially after the emergence of the Omicron strain, which has several varieties and more easily eludes protective measures.
Eight varieties of the covid strain “omikron” are currently circulating in Ukraine, a new strain has not yet been identified, Deputy Health Minister and Chief Sanitary Doctor Igor Kuzin said.
“Omicron is circulating mainly in Ukraine, eight of its varieties have been identified. We also monitor the situation with the emergence of a new strain, so far it has not been detected in Ukraine,” he said on the air of the telethon on Friday.
At the same time, commenting on testing for COVID-19, Kuzin noted that in regions where there are hostilities and a large number of airborne alarms, there are fewer tests,” he said.
According to Kuzin, there are currently about 2 million COVID-19 rapid tests in primary care facilities and “that’s an adequate residual.”
At the same time, predicting possible covid restrictions, Kuzin noted that all restrictions have been moved to advisory mode and “that’s the way it’s going to be.”
“Most areas look at the situation themselves and can make their own local decisions. They are mostly advisory. We can talk about applying local restrictive and recommendatory rules,” he said.
Chinese authorities on Sunday began lifting border crossing restrictions in China that have been in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloomberg reported.
So, starting Jan. 8, individuals arriving in China will no longer need to go into quarantine after arriving in the country. However, 48 hours before arrival they will be required to obtain a negative test result for COVID-19 and present it to the PRC.
On Sunday, Chinese authorities also began issuing ordinary visas and temporary residence permits to foreigners. At the same time, residents of mainland China can again obtain passports and tourist visas.
However, according to the Associated Press, only a very limited resumption of China’s international air traffic can be expected for the time being.
Also on Sunday, authorities resumed passenger service on land and sea routes between the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong special administrative region. Travelers, however, will need negative COVID-19 tests 48 hours before travel. The government has also imposed restrictions on the daily number of people who can travel between mainland China and Hong Kong.
The lifting of many travel restrictions came into effect after China began its annual 40-day travel period the previous day to coincide with the Lunar New Year, which this time falls on January 22, 2023. At this time, China is experiencing the world’s largest annual migration of its population, as they disperse to their homelands or travel around the country with relatives.
Since 2020, China has had a “zero tolerance” policy for COVID-19, which has meant applying measures such as lockdowns and mandatory quarantine for those who come into contact with infected people. At the same time, the Chinese economy was showing the lowest growth rate in almost fifty years. But in December, Chinese authorities lifted a series of restrictions adopted to contain the spread of the virus, causing a spike in illnesses and deaths.
The United States, the United Kingdom, India, Japan, Italy, Spain, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden announced some restrictive measures against travelers from China amid the COVID-19 wave. In particular, they decided to require all persons arriving from the PRC to present a negative test for COVID-19.
According to Worldometers, a portal that specializes in statistics on major world events, China has diagnosed approximately 482,000 cases of the coronavirus and 5,200 deaths from the effects of infection throughout the pandemic.
In the current epidemiological season, Ukraine may face a twin-epidemic (simultaneous epidemics) of COVID-19 and influenza, Fedor Lapiy, head of the National Technical Expert Group on Immunoprophylaxis (NTEGI), predicts.
“There is reason to believe that this season’s flu will return to us, and we will meet with the so-called twindemic, that is, simultaneous epidemics of COVID-19 and influenza,” he said in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine.
Lapiy explained that a prerequisite for a twindemic now could be the fact that the flu was previously contained due to quarantine measures in force in Ukraine before the Russian military invasion to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the past two years, the measures that were taken to prevent COVID-19: masks, quarantine measures, distance learning, etc., also contained the flu very well. Therefore, we have influenza in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons in fact, there wasn’t, but his virus didn’t disappear anywhere. A non-immune layer has accumulated that will contribute to the flu epidemic. It is absolutely obvious that the tweendemia scenario can now be realized,” he said.
Lapiy noted that if a person is ill with these two diseases at the same time, this significantly worsens the prognosis, and the risk of death doubles.
Ukraine allowed vaccination against COVID-19 for children from five years old.
As the chief sanitary doctor of Ukraine Igor Kuzin said at a briefing in Kyiv on Monday, vaccination of children from 12 years of age was allowed in Ukraine earlier.
Children aged 5 to 11 will be vaccinated with Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine. Now Ukraine is waiting for the appropriate vaccine in a special dosage for children.
Kuzin did not specify when this vaccine could be delivered to Ukraine.