On Friday 5th May, the WHO declared that Covid is no longer a global health emergency. Many people have taken this as a signal that Covid has now gone away and we no longer need to do anything about it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Covid still kills someone every three minutes
Across the world over 65 million people have Long Covid, with cases increasing daily. Apart from the consequences for individuals, this adds to workforce shortages and undermines economic productivity.
In the UK alone, over 60,000 people have been hospitalised with Covid in 2023 and a further 25,000 have caught Covid in hospital – thus adding to the load on an already over-stretched NHS.
As the WHO Director-General stressed:
“The worst thing any country could do now is to use this news as a reason to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about”.
On top of that, there is a danger that we fail to learn from Covid about what we should be doing to improve the health and safety of our population more general.
While the toll from Covid is lower than in previous years, WHO says that one in 10 infections may lead to need for long term care in the future, so while we may no longer need the same measures to control infection, the need to make workplaces and other public spaces safer remains as important as ever. The key measures that are required include reducing airborne transmission by:
- Cleaning the air through improved ventilation and the use of HEPA air filters
- Wearing of FFP2/FFP3 respirator masks in shared indoor air, especially necessary in badly ventilated areas and those used by infectious and vulnerable people (notably healthcare settings)
- Ensuring that, when employees are sick, they are encouraged and supported to stay at home.
From the Covid Pledge Coalition:
For those organisations that currently sponsor of the Pledge, including many trade unions, we would urge you to remind all branches of your organisation to approach their employers to sign up to the Pledge, to meet the standards needed to prevent and reduce airborne transmission and protect workers and others who enter the workplace. For others we would urge you to sign up to the Pledge Campaign.
Sign up to the Covid Safety Pledge here