The end of the Covid-19 pandemic is in sight, the head of the World Health Organisation said on Wednesday.
“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic. We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters during a briefing on Covid-19 and other global health issues.
The number of newly reported Covid cases has dropped to the lowest level since March 2020.
The WHO's latest epidemiological report on Covid-19 shows that the number of reported cases fell 28 per cent to 3.1 million during the week ending September 11, following a 12 per cent drop a week earlier.
However, as the rest of the world gradually lifts restrictions, China continues to lock down parts of the country and conduct mass testing to eradicate coronavirus within its borders.
New research suggests at least 17 million people in the European Union may have experienced long Covid-19 symptoms during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic, with women more likely than men to suffer from the condition, the WHO said.
The research was unclear on whether the symptoms that linger, recur or first appear at least one month after a coronavirus infection were more common in vaccinated or unvaccinated patients. At least 17 million met the WHO’s criteria of long Covid, with symptoms lasting at least three months in 2020 and 2021, the report said.
But the agency has said that the falling number of reported cases is deceptive, since many countries have cut back on testing and may not be detecting the less serious cases.
“The number of cases that are being reported to WHO we know are an underestimate,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO technical lead on Covid, told reporters.
“We feel that far more cases are actually circulating than are being reported to us,” she said, cautioning that the virus “is circulating at a very intense level around the world at the present time”.
Since the start of the pandemic, the WHO has recorded more than 605 million cases and about 6.4 million deaths, although both those numbers are also believed to be serious undercounts.
In the UAE, 402 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Wednesday after an additional 244,532 tests were carried out in the past 24 hours.
No deaths were reported in the 24-hour reporting period, with the country's toll remaining at 2,342.