Covid Response Added to Routine Health Programs despite WHO’s Emergency Update

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian Health Ministry said the Covid response including vaccination will remain a part of routine health programs despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency update.

The WHO on Friday downgraded the threat of the virus saying it is no longer a public health emergency of international concerns (PHEIC).

The decreasing numbers of deaths and hospitalizations and the high levels of population immunity against the virus were given as reasons for ending the PHEIC.

The situation in Ethiopia is also similar to the global trend, said Health Minister Dr Lia Tadesse. New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have all dropped significantly.

However, the minister said, even if the virus no longer qualifies as a global emergency, millions are still dying each week as many more continue to get infected and re-infected, globally.

“Many questions remain about the potential emergence of new variants that could cause new surges,” Dr Lia said in a statement.

Therefore, she said, “activities to reduce the circulation of virus; and to diagnose and treat Covid; to reduce mortality, and morbidity will continue.”

“In the next phase of response, Ethiopia will continue to develop capacity and to respond to any upsurge of new variants,” Dr Lia said.

“We advise our community to continue Covid-19 prevention and control activities.”

The minister urged all eligible citizens to take Covid vaccine made available at all health facilities free of charge.

Nearly 37.8 million Ethiopians have so far completed the vaccination series while more than 3 million took boosters.

Health authorities have also adopted various “strategic directions” as per guidelines of the WHO that advised nations to transition to long-term management of the virus.

The directions involve integrating Covid vaccine into essential vaccination programs as well as covid surveillance and response activities into routine health programs, as per the Minister.

“Our country has used and is using the lessons learnt from Covid-19 as an opportunity to strengthen our health system to better prevent, detect and respond to public health emergencies,” Dr. Lia said.

More than half a million confirmed Covid infections have been recorded in Ethiopia where 7, 575 people died in the pandemic.