ON FRIDAY, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the formal end of the designation of covid19 as a public health emergency of international concern. But while the emergency is over, the threat remains.
“What this news means is that it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing covid19 alongside other infectious diseases,” explained WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as he made the announcement.
Over the past few days, the virus still managed to kill at least one person every three minutes globally. Three deaths were reported in the latest Ministry of Health bulletin in relation to this country, with 146 new cases confirmed from April 19 to May 2.
But there has been enough of a decline in deaths, hospitalisations and intensive care admissions, coupled with high levels of population immunity thanks to vaccinations, to merit the end of the emergency, notwithstanding the uncertainties posed by potential evolution of the virus. It is time to transition to long-term management.
Part of this must involve a proper review of the State’s response.
While it was never outside the realm of possibility, nobody could have foreseen the events that unfolded in the world in the year 2020 and beyond.
Our first responders, our medical health professionals, including those directly charged with managing covid19 patients, as well as staff such as nurses and other professionals who had to pick up the slack in other areas showed sterling commitment to their roles. For this, they have been rightly praised.
But the official response was not limited to the actions of a narrow class of workers. It also involved a wider question of policymaking throughout various arms of the State.
Aside from the Cabinet, entities such as the police service and the Parliament were called upon to play a key role, especially with the designation of a state of emergency. A good example of this was the problem that arose when mixed signals were sent by police about the enforcement of regulations.
The legislative measures in place also need to be looked at, given that much of them reflected perhaps old and archaic provisions and processes.
At the height of the pandemic there was much resistance by the Government to calls for a commission of enquiry into the official response, calls which often emanated from opposition politicians.
While it was feasible in the past to say the time was not right for such a review, now that there is clearly more breathing room, as confirmed by the WHO’s declaration, it would be irresponsible not to conduct some sort of post-mortem to learn lessons from our experiences, especially with more than 4,000 deaths having been recorded.
We should do so while we can before the next pandemic.