The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be “lengthy,” the World Health Organisation has warned after its emergency committee met to evaluate the crisis six months after first declaring an international emergency.
A “nuanced” approach to tackling Covid-19 is needed to reduce the risk of “response fatigue” as the diseases places continued social and economic pressures on countries, the panel said.
The committee gathered in Geneva on Friday exactly six months on from its declaration that coronavirus was public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), its highest level of alert.
“WHO continues to assess the global risk level of Covid-19 to be very high,” the organisation said in a statement issued on Saturday.
“The committee highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this Covid-19 pandemic, noting the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts.”
The virus has killed more than 680,500 people worldwide and infected at least 17.6 million, according to a tally by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The WHO warned this week the global spread of the disease is still accelerating, with the number of cases doubling in the past six weeks.
During Friday’s meeting, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the committee: “It’s sobering to think that six months ago, when you recommended I declare a PHEIC, there were less than 100 cases and no deaths outside China.”
“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come,” he added.
The emergency committee advised the WHO to provide “nuanced, pragmatic guidance on criteria for appropriate Covid-19 response activities to reduce the risk of response fatigue in the context of socio-economic pressures”.
It also called for more research into “critical unknowns”, such as the animal source of the disease and long-term health impacts in survivors.
The committee will meet again within three months.