The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is “in sight” after releasing data that showed global deaths from the virus had finally reached their lowest rate since March 2020.

Weekly global deaths were 11,118 as of September 5, 2022, according to the WHO, which is fewer than on March 11, 2020 when the WHO declared a worldwide pandemic. A pandemic is defined as a large-scale outbreak that spreads over multiple countries or the world.

WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the new figure meant the end of the official pandemic declaration could come soon, though he didn’t hint when.

“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic — we are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” he said at a press conference on Thursday.

“We can see the finish line, we’re in a winning position. But now is the worst time to stop running. Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.

“If we don’t take this opportunity now, we run the risk of more variants, more deaths, more disruption and more uncertainty. So let’s seize this opportunity.”

The WHO warned that even when the pandemic label is eventually peeled off, COVID still poses an “acute global emergency” and, in case you missed it, thousands of people are still dying from the preventable disease every single week.

During the first eight months of 2022 alone more than 1 million people died from COVID. We obviously want that number to be zero.

The WHO released a list of actions all governments should take to help end the pandemic, including advice on vaccination, testing, managing infection control measures in health facilities, preventing misinformation and community engagement.

“With access to and appropriate use of existing life-saving tools, COVID-19 can become a manageable disease with significantly reduced morbidity and mortality,” the document stated.

The WHO estimated 19.8 million deaths were averted in 2021 thanks to vaccines. More than 12 billion doses have been given around the world.

There were approximately 80,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Australia as of September 9. Case numbers have declined dramatically since our third-wave peak in July, from about 50,000 new cases per day to less than 10,000 per day.

In total, more than 10 million cases have been reported and 14,421 people have died in Australia from COVID. All further deaths can be prevented, so consider this your reminder to get your booster, mask up in crowded places and stay home when you’re sick.

Image: Getty Images / Alexander Hassenstein