By Beyza Binnur Donmez
GENEVA (AA) - WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus on Friday said COVID-19 might no longer be a public health emergency of international concern later this year.
"I am confident that this year we will be able to say that COVID-19 is over as a public health emergency of international concern," Tedros told a news conference, and added: "We are not there yet."
"Last week, there were still more than 5,000 reported deaths. ... too many for a disease that can be prevented and treated," he continued.
However, the world is "certainly in a much better position" and it is "very pleasing to see that for the first time, the weekly number of reported deaths in the past four weeks has been lower than when we first used the word 'pandemic' three years ago," he said.
He stressed that although the world becomes "increasingly hopeful" about the end of the pandemic, the question of how it began remains unanswered.
Tedros said that last Sunday, WHO was made aware of data published on the database GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data) in late January and taken down recently, noting: "The data, from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, relates to samples taken at the Huanan market in Wuhan, in 2020."
While it was available online, scientists from a number of countries downloaded that data and analyzed it, he said, and WHO also contacted the Chinese CDC to share it with itself and the international scientific community so it can be analyzed.
"We asked researchers from the Chinese CDC and the international group of scientists to present their analyses of the data to (Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens) SAGO," he said and reiterated his call on China to be transparent in sharing data and to conduct the necessary investigations and share the results.
"Every piece of data relating to studying the origins of COVID-19, needs to be shared with the international community immediately," he urged.
"We have a duty to ourselves to end this pandemic as soon as possible. We have a duty to those we have lost to find out how it started," he said. "And we have a duty to those who will follow us to make the world safer."
Last Saturday, March 11, marked three years since WHO first described the global outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic.
On Jan. 30, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared public health emergency of international concern.