Covid declared a pandemic two years ago. Health experts warn it’s still not over

on Mar11
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Medical staff treat a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California, January 25, 2022.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

LONDON — With war raging between Russia and Ukraine, the world’s battle against the coronavirus has been largely sidelined and the second anniversary of Covid-19 being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization could easily pass us by.

Covid was, and still is, a seismic event that has affected the lives of millions of people, causing heartache for those that lost loved ones and anxiety for millions of people who lost livelihoods as the pandemic caused widespread lockdowns and a massive hit to businesses both big and small.

Of course, the long-lasting impact on many individuals’ mental and physical health is yet to be fully measured or appreciated, with the effects of the virus — whether it be the malingering Covid symptoms or “long Covid” many people are experiencing, or its impact on the brain and body — still being investigated by scientists.

Two years ago, when the WHO declared on March 11, 2020, that Covid “could be characterized as a pandemic” little did we know that we would now have recorded over 452 million cases to date, and over 6 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, which continues to keep a tally on the number of infections and fatalities.

The numbers are so immense it’s easy to forget that each of those deaths has been a tragic loss for someone, or some family.

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Vaccine triumph

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There are still many unanswered questions over Covid too, the biggest one being: Where did the virus come from?

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Some, like the U.K., were more willing to take a “wait and see” approach to how much damage the variant could cause while others like Germany and the Netherlands, mindful of the stresses on their health systems, reinstated partial restrictions or lockdowns in late 2021.

The move prompted protests from many quarters in Europe but demonstrations against Covid measures had become commonplace before then, with some members of the public questioning the public guidance and restrictions imposed on them, and others going further, denying the existence of Covid, with myth-spreading about the virus a perpetual bugbear for virologists, epidemiologists and front-line health care workers treating those sick or dying from Covid.

A person holds a sign as people gather during a protest against mandated coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines and vaccine passports, in New York, September 27, 2021.

David ‘Dee’ Delgado | Reuters

It’s ‘not over’

WHO’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a familiar face to millions of us now, said on Thursday on the eve of the two-year anniversary of Covid being declared a pandemic that “although reported cases and deaths are declining globally, and several countries have lifted restrictions, the pandemic is far from over.”

In a message broadcast on Twitter Thursday, Tedros reiterated the WHO’s mantra that Covid “will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere” and he said the WHO was concerned at the number of countries “drastically” reducing testing and that this “inhibits our ability to see where the virus is, how it’s spreading and how it’s evolving.”

For countries like the U.K., where the government has announced it will scrap most free lateral flow tests on April 1, the end of widespread testing is a worry for some public health experts that say cases are already rising in older age groups, once again, as there is more socializing and as booster jabs wear off. Whether booster shots will continue to be rolled out remains a moot point, however.

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