Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, announced today that Spain will begin to change the surveillance and control system for COVID-19. | EFE

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The United Nations assures that it will "follow the example" of the countries, including Spain, which have qualified COVID-19 as endemic despite the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) has ruled out, for the moment, the endemic.

The Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, announced on Wednesday that Spain will begin to change the surveillance and control system for COVID-19 once the sixth wave has been overcome, since "the pandemic disease is gradually acquiring endemic characteristics".

In response to these statements, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General António Guterres, told a press conference that he will leave the WHO to deal with the matter in medical terms, although he stressed that they will "follow the example" of the countries that have confirmed that they will treat COVID-19 differently.

"I think we will follow their lead. There has to be a lot of common sense. But we also have to give tools to those countries that need them most," he said.

Dujarric also said that many countries "are forced" to live with the virus because "they don't have access to vaccines," and reiterated the need to provide them with support to combat the infection.

However, Catherine Smallwood, one of the main responsible of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Europe, has shown her disagreement with the fact of treating Covid-19 as endemic, since "the conditions for this are not met".

"At the moment, the conditions for endemicity are not met," Smallwood said. "The endemic assumes some stability of virus circulation at predictable levels and known and predictable waves of epidemic transmission, but what we see at the moment, going into 2022, is nowhere near that," she said, adding that "there is still a great deal of uncertainty".

The expert did not rule out the possibility that COVID-19 could become endemic at some point, "but it's difficult to consider it in 2022 with this scenario," she said. However, she pointed out that everything depends on how the virus is responded to and the extent of vaccination in the different countries, both in Europe and in the rest of the world.

VACCINATION MANDATES

On the other hand, Dujarric referred to the discussion around the vaccine mandate following the request by the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to impose vaccination in the country.

In fact, on December 31, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged German society to unite in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and support the renewal his government is planning for the country. The leader has emerged as an advocate of compulsory vaccination and considers antivaccinationists "a small minority of reckless extremists."

"There is a healthy debate, a very intense debate, you might say, in many countries about vaccination mandates. We need to remember that there are more countries where the issue of a vaccine mandate is really not relevant because they don't have enough vaccines," he remarked.

In addition, he stressed that "each country will have to impose its public health measures" according to its own situation, although the priority, for the moment, is to get the vaccines to combat the new variants and to help countries achieve full vaccination of their population.

"The debate about the mandate is...let's have the debate about the mandate, but having it, in fact, is a luxury. So let's concentrate on getting the vaccines to the places that need them," Dujarric concluded.