WHO discusses end of Covid-19 emergency status
The World Health Organization began discussions on lowering the level of alert about the coronavirus.
WHO sources said no decision would be announced before Monday.
The WHO's emergency committee on Covid-19 is holding its 14th meeting since the start of the pandemic. The panel meets every three months to discuss the crisis and then brief WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The WHO currently classes the coronavirus pandemic as a "public health emergency of international concern," which is the highest level of alert defined by the organization.
Last month, top German virologist Christian Drosten said "the pandemic is over" and the virus had become "endemic," with infection rates not rising or falling significantly.
'Spike in deaths' following new China wave
Tedros said before Friday's meeting that more than 170,000 Covid-19 deaths had been reported in recent weeks.
"The actual number is certainly much higher," he said.
Although the weekly rate had dropped below 10,000 in October, deaths have been rising since December during new waves of infections in China.
Tedros said that, just in the past week "almost 40,000 deaths were reported to WHO, more than half of them from China."
China significantly reduced Covid-19 restrictions in December, leading to a surge in cases. Infection rates appeared to have stabilized in major cities by mid-January.
Global response 'hobbled' by uneven distribution
The WHO chief said the fight against Covid-19 was still held back by a lack of vaccines, tests and treatments.
"The global response remains hobbled because, in too many countries, these powerful, life-saving tools are still not getting to the populations that need them most — especially older people and health workers," Tedros said.
Tedros said trust in health care was being undermined by a "continuous torrent" of misinformation and systems were struggling to cope with the burden of Covid-19 cases.
"While we are clearly in better shape than three years ago when this pandemic first hit, the global collective response is once again under strain," Tedros said earlier this week.
He also said too few people around the world were adequately vaccinated.
Covid-19 will "continue to kill, unless we do more to get health tools to people that need them," Tedros said.