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'COVID is still here': Dr. Summers says after WHO declares COVID-19 still a global health emergency


Monday marks three years since World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus first declared COVID-19 to be a global health emergency.

At the WHO’s annual executive board meeting, Tedros said, “There is no doubt that we're in a far better situation now than a year ago” when the highly transmissible Omicron variant was at its peak.

But after days of deciding the status of the pandemic internationally, the WHO announced that COVID-19 continues to be a global health emergency.

On Monday, the advisory panel found that the pandemic may be nearing an “inflection point” due to higher levels of immunity which could reduce the number of deaths related to COVID-19.

Three years after the virus was first declared a global emergency, many Canadians have returned to lpre-pandemic life without masking or restrictions in place in Ontario.

“COVID is still here and it continues to make an impact across the globe,” said Dr. Alex Summers, medical officer of health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

“The message from the WHO is to continue to vaccinate, to continue to be vigilant for emerging variants is really important for us, even here in southwestern Ontario,” he said.

The severity of getting COVID-19 has shifted, however, “This isn't a benign infection, this isn’t something to ignore, it’s still worthwhile to avoid getting sick with this virus,” said Summers.

Despite the number of hospitalizations in Ontario falling after a recent uptick, Peter Bergmanis with the London Health Coalition told CTV News London the health care system is still under strain.

“If there’s anything we should’ve been doing it's starting to properly fund the hospital system so that we wouldn’t have such a crisis that we’re in now,” Bergmanis said. “In hospitals and nursing homes staff are still off with COVID and we’re not even doing the most basic things to prevent the spread.”

Tedros explained that there is still concern about the impact of the virus, “Since the beginning of December we had reported deaths rising. In the past eight weeks more than 17,000 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19."

In a statement, the WHO said, “The committee acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic may be approaching an inflection point,” explaining that higher levels of immunity due to vaccination or infection may limit the impact of COVID-19 on “morbidity and mortality.”

— With files from The Associated Press Top Stories

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