The World Health Organisation (WHO) has provided an updated ‘Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan’ around Covid-19, highlighting several scenarios for how the pandemic will evolve in 2022.
Director-general for the agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing on Wednesday (30 March) that the third strategic plan for Covid-19, “could and should be our last”.
“It lays out three possible scenarios for how the pandemic could evolve this year. Based on what we know now, the most likely scenario is that the virus continues to evolve, but the severity of the disease it causes reduces over time as immunity increases due to vaccination and infection.
“Periodic spikes in cases and deaths may occur as immunity wanes, which may require periodic boosting for vulnerable populations,” he said.
In the best-case scenario, the DG said that less severe variants could emerge, and boosters or new formulations of vaccines won’t be necessary.
“In the worst-case scenario, a more virulent and highly transmissible variant emerges. Against this new threat, people’s protection against severe disease and death, either from prior vaccination or infection, will wane rapidly,” he said.
Addressing this situation would require significantly altering the current vaccines and making sure they get to the people who are most vulnerable to severe disease, Ghebreyesus added.
He said that ending the acute phase of the pandemic in 2022 requires countries to invest in five core components:
- Surveillance, laboratories, and public health intelligence;
- Vaccination, public health and social measures, and engaged communities;
- Clinical care for Covid-19, and resilient health systems;
- Research and development, and equitable access to tools and supplies;
- C0ordination, as the response transitions from an emergency mode to long-term respiratory disease management.
“We have all the tools we need to bring this pandemic under control: we can prevent transmission with masks, distancing, hand hygiene and ventilation. And we can save lives by ensuring everyone has access to tests, treatments and vaccines. Equitable vaccination remains the single most powerful tool we have to save lives,” the DG said.
The WHO said that striving to vaccinate 70% of the population of every country remains essential for bringing the pandemic under control “Many high- and middle-income countries have reached this target, and have seen a decoupling between cases and deaths,” said Ghebreyesus.
“Even as some high-income countries now roll out fourth doses for their populations, one-third of the world’s population is yet to receive a single dose, including 83% of the population of Africa.
“This is not acceptable to me, and it should not be acceptable to anyone.”
South Africa’s official death toll from the coronavirus passed the 100,000 mark this week. An additional 44 deaths from the disease have been reported, taking the total to 100,020, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said in a statement on Wednesday.
Scientists advising the government have said they expect the fifth wave of infections to hit at the end of May.
Read: South Africa faces fifth Covid wave in coming weeks as deaths pass 100,000