New York Daily News: By Joseph Wilkinson – The end of the COVID-19 pandemic may be near, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

“We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva.

A Jackson, Miss, resident receives a Pfizer booster shot from a nurse at a vaccination site Tuesday, Feb 8, 2022 – Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Worldwide COVID deaths per week dropped last week to levels not seen since the pandemic hit the US in March 2020, the WHO said.

COVID deaths dropped 22 percent worldwide last week, according to WHO data. Still, 11,000 people died from the disease around the world.

Tedros stressed that nations must continue taking actions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“If we don’t take this opportunity now, we run the risk of more variants, more deaths, more disruption, and more uncertainty,” he said.

Clay Harris receives a COVID-19 test outside the Salt Lake County Health Department Friday, July 22, 2022, in Salt Lake City – Rick Bowmer/AP

The newest omicron subvariant, BA.5, accounts for almost 90% of cases worldwide, according to the WHO.

Pharmaceutical companies in both the U.S. and Europe recently rolled out vaccines that target BA.5, but they have not yet been widely administered.

Despite the positive news, 3.1 million new COVID cases were reported across the globe last week. That still marked a 28 percent drop from the previous week, and the case counts have declined around the planet for weeks.

But Tedros cautioned against resting on the laurels of relative success, and WHO leadership warned that data has become less accurate as many nations and states stop closely monitoring COVID.

“Now is the worst time to stop running,” he said. “Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap all the rewards of our hard work.”

WHO leaders and other experts still expect COVID cases to increase during winter in the Northern Hemisphere, as they have for the past two years. Winter sends more people indoors, where the virus spreads easier, and coincides with flu season.

On Monday in New York, Governor Hochul announced that the state’s long-running, many-times-extended state of emergency would be coming to an end.

“We wanted to see what the numbers were when time came for school, and that was last week,” Hochul said. “The numbers are holding. We now have booster shots, which I’m encouraging everybody to get that booster like I just did.”

COVID-19′s pandemic phase may be ending, but that does not mean the virus will go away completely. Last week, outgoing White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said he expected COVID vaccines to be administered yearly, like flu shots.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that looking forward in the COVID-19 pandemic, in the absence of a dramatically different variant, we likely are moving towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual influenza vaccine,” Fauci said on September 6.

With News Wire Services