Pandemic ending, but lessons need to be learned

The World Health Organization declared an end to COVID-19 as a global public health emergency on Friday, but that does not mean, as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, the disease is no longer a global threat.

The world health body made the decision based on the fact that all main indexes of the pandemic including the numbers of infections, hospitalized patients and deaths have dropped. It remains a health threat, however, even if it can be treated at a relatively low cost, medically, socially and financially.

By lifting the global public health emergency, the WHO means to help countries downgrade their prevention and control measures, so as to facilitate the full resumption of cross-border flow of people and goods.

China, for example, downgraded the management of COVID-19 from class A to class B from Jan 8, in accordance with the country's law on prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, and removed it from quarantinable infectious disease management. Thanks to the move, the just-concluded May Day holiday witnessed about 274 million domestic trips and a boom in outbound travel, which will boost the tourism industry of not only China but also the rest of the world, because the country was the source of the largest number of tourists in the world before the pandemic.

Yet the three devastating years of the pandemic should not be forgotten nor should the lessons learned overlooked. Had some countries, especially the developed ones, taken COVID-19 more seriously and made proper arrangements for testing, tracking and treatment, many lives could have been saved. For instance, had the US administration adopted a scientific approach to the pandemic, a large number of the 1.12 million COVID-19 deaths in the country could have been prevented.

What complicated many countries' fight against the pandemic are the anti-mask, anti-vaccine and anti-social distancing "movements", which also put other people's lives in danger.

And what hindered the global fight against the pandemic and worsened the situation are politically motivated "origin-tracing" campaigns, driven especially by US politicians. The threat of the disease may have lessened, but no one should take it for granted that another virus or bacterium will not bring down the world to its knees again in the near future. The lessons learned should drive all the countries to prepare, and prepare well, for another medical emergency.