IHR Emergency Committee – COVID-19

IHR Emergency Committee – COVID-19

 

Statement on the tenth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic
19 January 2022
Statement
[Excerpts]
…The Committee unanimously agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic still constitutes an extraordinary event that continues to adversely affect the health of populations around the world, poses a risk of international spread and interference with international traffic, and requires a coordinated international response. As such, the Committee concurred that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a PHEIC and offered its advice to the Director-General. 
The Director-General determined that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to constitute a PHEIC. He accepted the advice of the Committee and issued the Committee’s advice to States Parties as Temporary Recommendations under the IHR 
The Emergency Committee will be reconvened within three months or earlier, at the discretion of the Director-General. The Director-General thanked the Committee for its work….

 

Temporary Recommendations to States Parties
The Committee identified the following actions as critical for all countries:

[1] MODIFIED: Continue to use evidence-informed public health and social measures, therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines for COVID-19, and to share response experiences with WHO.  States Parties are advised to regularly adjust their response strategies by monitoring their epidemiological situation, assessing their vulnerabilities including their health system capacity, as well as considering the adherence to and attributable impact of individual and combined PHSM. Where isolation and quarantine of large numbers of cases and contacts is potentially disrupting critical infrastructure (including heath care services), States Parties may need to modify isolation and quarantine periods, with the introduction of testing, to balance the risks with the continuation of key functions, using a risk-based approach. Technical Brief on enhancing Readiness for Omicron and Considerations for implementing and adjusting public health and social measures in the context of COVID-19.

[2] MODIFIED: Take a risk-based approach to mass gathering events by evaluating, mitigating, and communicating risks. Recognizing that there are different drivers and risk tolerance for mass gatherings and mass migrations, and the particular challenges for fragile and vulnerable States Parties, it is critical to consider the epidemiological context (including the prevalence of variants of concern and the intensity of transmission), surveillance, contact tracing and testing capacity, as well as adherence to PHSM when conducting this risk assessment in line with WHO guidance. Key planning recommendations for mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19.

[3] MODIFIED: Achieve the WHO call to action to have at least 70% of all countries’ populations vaccinated by the start of July 2022 and integrate COVID-19 vaccination into routine health services. In accordance with advice from SAGE and WHO interim statements, States Parties are requested to share vaccine doses to increase global equity and to use a stepwise approach to vaccination, prioritizing those at highest risk from COVID-19, considering an evidence-informed use of booster vaccination, and taking into account evolving data on population level immunity. To enhance vaccine uptake, States Parties are encouraged to assess enablers and barriers to vaccination. Vaccination programmes should continue to prioritize vulnerable populations, including health workers, older people, people with underlying conditions, immunocompromised individuals with insufficient access to treatment, migrants, refugees, people living in fragile settings, sea farers, and air crews. Interim Statement on COVID-19 vaccines in the context of the circulation of the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 Variant from the WHO Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC); Link to WHO SAGE Prioritization Roadmap

[4] MODIFIED: Enhance surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and continue to report to WHO to enable rapid identification, tracking, and evaluation of variants and continued monitoring of the pandemic’s evolution and its control. States Parties should strengthen systems to collect and publicly share indicators to monitor the burden of COVID-19, such as hospitalization rates, severe disease, and excess mortality. States Parties are particularly encouraged to increase efforts to increase detection of infections in individuals where variants of interest and variants of concern may emerge. States Parties should strengthen mechanisms to link individual-level clinical, vaccination and genomic data to facilitate assessment of the impact of and vaccine effectiveness against VOC. States Parties should leverage and enhance existing systems such as the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), as well as other national, regional, and global networks to integrate respiratory disease surveillance and prioritize monitoring circulation of SARS-CoV-2, relative proportions of SARS-CoV-2 variants, and circulation of other co-circulating respiratory viruses, including influenza. Guidance for surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 variants; SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequencing for public health goals

[5] MODIFIED: States Parties should ensure that there is sufficient surge capacity for critical SARS-CoV-2 clinical care and post COVID-19 condition, and for the maintenance of essential health services, and should plan for the restoration of health services at all levels with sufficient funding, supplies, and human resources. Specific to the risk of evolving new lineages, special attention may be needed for ensuring access to treatment for treatable immunosuppressive disease. States Parties should enhance access to health for all by strengthening health and social systems to cope with the impacts of the pandemic, especially on children. Building health systems resilience for universal health coverage and health security during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond: WHO position paper

[6] MODIFIED: Lift or ease international traffic bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced by States Parties. The failure of travel restrictions introduced after the detection and reporting of Omicron variant to limit international spread of Omicron demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such measures over time. Travel measures (e.g. masking, testing, isolation/quarantine, and vaccination) should be based on risk assessments and avoid placing the financial burden on international travellers in accordance with Article 40 of the IHR.  WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant 

[7] EXTENDED: Do NOT require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for international travel as the only pathway or condition permitting international travel given limited global access and inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. State Parties should consider a risk-based approach to the facilitation of international travel by lifting or modifying measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, when appropriate, in accordance with the WHO guidance.  Interim position paper: considerations regarding proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travellers; Policy considerations for implementing a risk-based approach to international travel in the context of COVID-19 

[8] MODIFIED: Recognize all vaccines that have received WHO Emergency Use Listing and all heterologous vaccine combinations as per SAGE recommendations, including in the context of international travel. States Parties are also requested to support research to derive the optimal vaccination strategy for reducing infection, morbidity and mortality. Interim Recommendations for heterologous COVID-19  Vaccine Schedules ; WHO Emergency Use Listing

[9] MODIFIED: Address community engagement and communications gaps and challenges posed by infodemics at national and local levels to reduce COVID-19 transmission, counter misinformation and threats to frontline workers, and improve COVID-19 vaccine acceptance, where applicable. This will require reinforcing messages that a comprehensive public health response is needed, including the continued use of PHSM alongside increasing vaccination coverage. Given the rapidly evolving situation and to promote trust and adherence, States Parties should explain clearly and transparently the rationale for the changes of policies and PHSM, with a view to balance risks and benefits of such changes. These communications need to be tailored to different population groups, including those considered as most vulnerable. Link to WHO risk communications resources.

[10] MODIFIED: Support timely uptake and monitoring of WHO recommended therapeutics by addressing challenges with accessibility and appropriate use. Local production and technology transfer can contribute to global equitable access to therapeutics. States Parties are advised to establish COVID-19 therapeutics resistance monitoring systems, using appropriate testing strategies and strengthening their surveillance system. In addition, States Parties are requested to support pharmacovigilance cohort studies and reporting systems to detect adverse events following administration of new therapeutics. Therapeutics and COVID-19: living guideline

[11] NEW: Conduct epidemiological investigations of SARS-CoV-2 transmission at the human-animal interface and targeted surveillance on potential animal hosts and reservoirs. Real time monitoring and data sharing on SARS-Cov-2 infection, transmission and evolution in animals will assist global understanding of the virus epidemiology and ecology, the potential for evolution of new variants in animal populations, their timely identification, and assessment of their public health risks. Statement from the Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Evolution in Animals