(Geneva) The World Health Organization released its new COVID-19 strategy on Wednesday to help countries move from emergency mode management of the disease to its prevention and control.

The release comes as the organization’s COVID-19 Emergency Committee is due to meet on Thursday to decide whether the pandemic is still severe enough to merit the maximum alert level, decreed on January 30, 2020.

The final decision, which rests with WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, may not be released for several days after the meeting.

In the meantime, the WHO has unveiled its COVID-19 strategic response plan for 2023-2025, the fourth since the first cases were reported in late 2019 in China’s Wuhan region.

According to the WHO, this document should serve as a “guide for countries on how to manage COVID-19 over the next two years, as they transition from the emergency phase to a longer-term sustained response”.

“The previous plan, released in 2022, set out two strategic goals: reduce the circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 (virus) and diagnose; and detecting and treating COVID-19 to reduce mortality, morbidity and long-term sequelae,” says Dr. Tedros in the strategy presentation.

The new strategy “retains these two goals and adds a third: to support countries as they move from emergency response to longer-term disease management, control and prevention,” he continues.

The new document places particular emphasis on caring for people who have contracted the disease in its so-called long version of COVID-19, which “appears to occur in 6% of symptomatic cases,” says Dr. Tedros.

“Research is essential: we need to better understand the post-COVID-19 state, including its risk factors and the role of immunity, and develop methods to better quantify its burden. At the same time, countries must strengthen and fund care pathways for this often debilitating disease,” he writes.

The new strategy is based on five components: “collaborative surveillance, community protection, safe and flexible care, access to countermeasures (eg vaccines, editor’s note) and emergency coordination”.

According to the WHO, it will be useful in guiding countries in managing COVID-19, “whether or not the pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern (USPPI),” the highest level of alert in the WHO. ‘organization.

The alert and its somewhat convoluted name had failed to convey the urgency of the situation and it had to wait until March 11, 2020 and the use of the word “pandemic” by the head of the WHO to make shake things up.

“Although we are in a much stronger position to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus is here to stay and countries must manage it alongside other infectious diseases,” the WHO.

Also, “in this moment of hope and uncertainty” in the face of the evolution of the pandemic, the new strategy is a new “crucial” step, notes Dr. Tedros.

A few days before the previous meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee on COVID-19, at the end of January, he had made it known that he considered it premature to lift the highest level of alert.

While the number of deaths related to COVID-19 has dropped by 95% since January, the WHO regrets that surveillance activities for the virus, such as testing and genetic sequencing, have considerably decreased across the world, which makes epidemiologists more or less blind.

“While the number of cases and deaths reported each week is at its lowest since the start of the pandemic, millions of people continue to be infected or re-infected […] and thousands of people die each week”, continued WHO said on Wednesday.