UN health organization declares end to international public health emergency, which has been in effect for more than three years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a “global health emergency”.
Friday’s announcement comes more than three years after the United Nations health agency declared its highest level of alarm over the devastating disease that triggered lockdowns, rocked economies and killed millions worldwide.
“Yesterday the emergency committee met for the 15th time and recommended that I end the public health emergency of international concern. I took that advice. It is therefore with great hope that I declare COVID-19 a global health emergency,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
The WHO said that although the emergency phase was over, the pandemic declared in March 2020 has not yet come to an end. given recent spikes in cases in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The agency says thousands of people are still dying each week from the coronavirus.
“That doesn’t mean COVID-19 is over as a global health threat,” Tedros said, adding that he wouldn’t hesitate to convene experts to reassess the situation should the coronavirus “endanger our world ”.
Tedros said the pandemic has been on a downward trend for more than a year, acknowledging that most countries have already bounced back to life before COVID-19. He bemoaned the damage COVID-19 had done to the global community, saying the disease had destroyed businesses and pushed millions into poverty.
Tedros also noted that there were likely at least 20 million COVID-19 deaths, far more than the officially reported 7 million.
“COVID has changed our world and it has changed us,” he said, warning that the risk of new variants still remains.
When the WHO first declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020, it was not yet called COVID-19 and there were no major outbreaks outside of China.
More than three years later, the virus has caused an estimated 764 million cases worldwide and about 5 billion people have received at least one dose of vaccine.
The WHO’s highest alert level helps draw international attention to a health threat and strengthens cooperation on vaccines and treatments.
Lifting them is a sign of the progress the world has made in these areas and could also mean a halt to international cooperation or funding efforts or a shift in focus – although many have already adapted as the pandemic has eased in several regions.