UCL News


How to end Covid-19 as a public health threat

3 November 2022

A panel of more than 350 experts from around the world, including academics at UCL, have provided recommendations on how to end the public health threat from Covid-19.

stock image of lateral flow testing

The study, published in Nature, aimed to identify the consensus view among experts by using the Delphi technique, which involves a series of consultations, allowing those consulted to reconsider their views based on the earlier, anonymised responses of their peers.

The 57 recommendations that emerged encompass six major areas: communications, health systems, vaccination, prevention, treatment and care, and inequities. The recommendations – endorsed by 150 organisations around the world – are directed at governments, health systems, industry, and other key stakeholders.

Three of the highest-ranked recommendations – that is, they garnered the strongest support – were:

  1. adopt a whole-of-society strategy that involves multiple disciplines, sectors and actors to avoid fragmented efforts;
  2. whole-of-government approaches (e.g. coordination between ministries) to identify, review, and address resilience in health systems and make them more responsive to people’s needs; and
  3. maintain a vaccines-plus approach, which includes a combination of Covid-19 vaccination, other structural and behavioural prevention measures, treatment, and financial support measures.

The panellists also gave strong support to the statement: “To reduce the burden on hospitals, primary care should be strengthened to include testing, contact tracing, the monitoring of mild symptoms, and vaccination.”

They also emphasised the need for significant efforts to improve health communications, rebuild public trust, combat misinformation, and engage communities directly in the management of this and future public health emergency responses.

Only six recommendations had more than 5% disagreement, including those which considered further economic incentives to address vaccine hesitancy or a symptoms approach to diagnose Covid-19 in settings with low access to testing.

The multidisciplinary panel was made up of 386 academic, health, government, NGO and other experts from 112 countries and territories.

Co-author Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) said: “Covid-19 is a persistent and worrying public health threat. While some governments want to move on, specific resources and actions are still needed to save lives.

“This study charts a promising path forward, as identified by a wide range of experts from across the globe. Among the recommendations is the call to maintain a vaccines-plus approach - including regular testing, monitoring of symptoms, and encouraging people to take precautions such as wearing face masks in crowded places.”

Co-author Oksana Pyzik (UCL School of Pharmacy) said: “The global response to Covid-19 has been fraught with challenges. Each country has responded differently, and often inadequately, with a worrying lack of coordination and clear goals. This consensus provides a framework for ending the Covid-19 threat without exacerbating economic burdens or putting the most vulnerable at risk.”

Professor Jeffrey V Lazarus, a researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and coordinator of the study, said: “Health policymakers and implementers today are besieged with proposals on ending Covid-19.

“With this consensus, we make unique, practical proposals to end Covid-19 as a public health threat now and lay a solid groundwork to address large-scale outbreaks of infectious disease, reducing the burden on society, especially vulnerable populations, over time.”

An online panel discussion, “How to end COVID19 as a public health threat”, is being held this coming Monday 7 November, 10:00-11:00 GMT. Panellists will include UCL’s Professor Susan Michie and Oksana Pyzik. To register please go here: https://ucl.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_YBatXoE4QLSi4e32Gpj2hA

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Media contact

Mark Greaves

T: +44 (0)7990 675947

E: m.greaves [at] ucl.ac.uk