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WHO says 'the end is in sight' for Covid pandemic as global deaths hit lowest since March 2020

In the U.S., however, Covid deaths have stayed relatively flat. The country's weekly average of 478 deaths a day is far above that from July 2021, its lowest point ever.
Image: Covid vaccination site in Germany
People wearing masks stand in line to get vaccinated in Hamburg, Germany, on Nov. 22.Morris Mac Matzen / AFP via Getty Images file

The Covid pandemic may be nearing a close, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

New weekly deaths reached their lowest point last week since March 2020. The WHO recorded around 11,000 deaths globally the week of Sept. 5-11, a 22% decrease from the previous week.

New weekly cases also fell by 28% in that time, from nearly 4.2 million during the week of Aug. 29 to Sept. 4 to around 3.1 million last week, according to the WHO.

"We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing Wednesday. "We are not there yet, but the end is in sight."

U.S. Covid deaths, however, have stayed relatively flat, with little change over the last two weeks, according to NBC News' tally.

The U.S. is recording a weekly average of 478 Covid deaths a day, which is far above its lowest rate ever: 168 daily deaths the week that ended July, 6, 2021. In June 2022, the average was 258 daily deaths.

However, new recorded Covid cases have declined by 14% in the last two weeks, to fewer than 73,000 per day on average.

The White House Covid-19 response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, said last week that although the pandemic isn't over, the U.S. has seen "an important shift in our fight against the virus."

The newly available bivalent booster shots, which target both the original coronavirus strain and the currently circulating omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, could provide better protection against both infection and transmission, as well as more lasting protection against severe illness, Jha said.

But Tedros warned Wednesday that countries might see "more variants, more deaths, more disruption and more uncertainty" if they ease up on efforts to test, vaccinate and treat.

The WHO is responsible for declaring an end to Covid as a public health emergency of international concern, a designation it reserves for the most serious global disease outbreaks. Tedros didn’t indicate Wednesday that such a declaration was imminent.

Instead, the WHO outlined six key actions to help countries end their outbreaks: continued testing, treatment and vaccinations, infection control in health care facilities, steps to combat misinformation and clear public communication.

"A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view," Tedros said. "She runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we. We can see the finish line. We’re in a winning position. But now is the worst time to stop running."