The last two years of Covid-19 infection has seen more than 500 million cases and over six million deaths globally, yet the pandemic is "far from over", warned the World Health Organisation even as several countries have eased restrictions and opened borders over declining cases.
"Although reported cases and deaths are declining globally, and several countries have lifted restrictions, the pandemic is far from over," said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, during a media briefing.
"It will not be over anywhere until it's over everywhere," he added even as many countries in Asia and the Pacific are facing surges in Covid cases and deaths.
"The virus continues to evolve, and we continue to face major obstacles in distributing vaccines, tests and treatments everywhere they are needed," the WHO chief said.
The global health body is also concerned that several countries are drastically reducing testing. The WHO recommends countries to offer self-tests in addition to professionally-administered testing services.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also supported the WHO chief's assessment.
In a statement, he warned that it would be "a grave mistake" to think the virus was now in the rear-view mirror.
Guterres reiterated that the distribution of vaccines remains "scandalously unequal".
"Manufacturers are producing 1.5 billion doses per month, but nearly three billion people are still waiting for their first shot," he highlighted.
The UN chief blamed this "failure" on policy and budgetary decisions that prioritise the health of people in wealthy countries, over the health of people in poor countries.
"This is a moral indictment of our world. It is also a recipe for more variants, more lockdowns and more sorrow and sacrifice in every country. Our world cannot afford a two-tier recovery from Covid-19," he said.
Guterres added that despite the numerous other global crises, the world must reach the goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of people in all countries by the middle of this year.
"Science and solidarity have proven to be an unbeatable combination. We must re-dedicate ourselves to ending this pandemic for all people and all countries, and closing this sad chapter in humanity's history, once and for all," he emphasised.