COVID still a threat, EU watchdog warns
A man pulls his mask to get his routine COVID-19 throat swab at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Tuesday, August 9, 2022. Chinese authorities have closed Tibet's famed Potala Palace after a minor outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in the Himalayan region. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AFP)— COVID-19 remains a threat even though it is no longer a global health emergency, the EU's vaccines watchdog warned on Tuesday in its final briefing of the pandemic.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it was stopping its regular briefings, which for nearly three years were keenly watched for the latest developments on badly-needed jabs and treatments.

But the Amsterdam-based regulator said it would keep up its work on jabs for new variants of the disease, which has killed millions of people and wreaked economic havoc.

"This virus is and will remain a threat, especially for the most vulnerable," EMA vaccines chief Marco Cavaleri said.

He said the virus was "still circulating and new variants are emerging."

Public health authorities would "have to keep their guard up", especially during winter, Cavaleri added.

But he insisted that COVID vaccines kept people out of hospital and "saved lives at the end of the day."

EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke hailed her agency's work in "enabling the largest vaccination programme in Europe's history."

"It has been estimated that in the first year of the pandemic alone COVID vaccines helped save almost 20 million lives," she said.

The World Health Organization declared on May 5 that the COVID pandemic no longer constitutes a global health emergency.

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