While admitting that Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency, the Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla, says the world cannot afford to lower its guards regarding the pandemic.
Phaahla says the pandemic that ravaged the world the most between 2020 and 2021 has been subdued, but it continues to cause havoc worldwide.
Phaahla gave this warning on Friday in Durban where he was speaking during the opening of the 13th BRICS (Brazil Russia India China South Africa) health ministers meeting.
The meeting was attended by health ministers from the block to discuss health-related matters and come up with plans to cooperate on health issues.
At the meeting, Brazil was represented by its health minister, Nisia Veronica Trindade Lima, the Russian Federation by Dr Mikhail Murashko, India was represented by Dr Mansukh Mandaviya and China was presented by Hon Lei Haichao.
Phaahla said life has returned to normal after years of ducking Covid-19 and imposing restrictions to stop it from spreading.
“We have indeed come a long way, and for more than a year the pandemic has been on a downward trend, allowing most countries to return to life as we knew it before Covid-19. Now, Covid-19 cases and deaths are about the lowest they’ve been in three years,” Phaahla said.
He then cautioned that countries must not lower their guards regarding the pandemic.
“While we are no longer in crisis mode, we cannot afford to let our guard down. This virus will still unfortunately continue to cause havoc in our population and in our economy, ” Phaahla said.
He added that what is now fortunate is that the world has the tools to fight any future wave of Covid-19.
“What we are hopeful for is that we have the tools and the political will in place to ensure that the future waves do not result in more severe disease, waves of death and we can achieve the goal with the tools we have at hand.
“We just need to make sure that we are tracking the virus because it will continue to evolve and pose a risk to our societies.”
At the same summit, Phaahla commended BRICS countries who, over the last decade, have committed to substantial health-system reforms that have been designed to improve equity in service use, quality and financial protection, with the ultimate goal of achieving universal health coverage.
“These health reforms represent an important attempt to translate BRICS countries' wealth into better health,” he said.