COVID-19 will be over as a public health emergency this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted.

During a briefing on Friday, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world is “certainly in a much better position now than we have been at any time during the pandemic”.

He said it is “pleasing to see” that for the first time, the weekly number of reported deaths in the past four weeks has been “lower than when we first used the word ‘pandemic’ three years ago”.

“I am confident that this year we will be able to say that COVID-19 is over as a public health emergency of international concern,” he said.

But he added: “We are not there yet. Last week, there were still more than 5,000 reported deaths. That’s 5,000 too many for a disease that can be prevented and treated.”

The WHO called on China to be “transparent in sharing data”, as well as conduct the necessary investigations and share results.

“Understanding how the pandemic began remains both a moral and scientific imperative,” Mr Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

UK drops COVID measures for China arrivals

It comes as the UK government has said it will end the requirement for people flying from mainland China to England to provide proof of a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test.

The current measure will be dropped from 5 April.

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And from Friday, the UK Health Security Agency’s voluntary on-arrival testing programme of travellers arriving from China to London’s Heathrow airport will also end, the government said.

“The removal of these measures comes as China has increased information sharing regarding testing, vaccination and genomic sequencing results, providing greater transparency on their domestic disease levels,” the health department said in a statement.

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