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COVID-19 as a global health emergency comes to an end, WHO declares

COVID-19 no longer constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC), according to a statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released on Friday (5 May).

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO). UN Photo / Elma Okic (Creative Commons)

The international body’s director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in the press conference announcing this development said that the pandemic had been on a downward trend, with population immunity increasing from vaccinations and infections.

Other signs of COVID-19’s downward trend, the director-general said, included decreasing mortality and easing pressure on health systems.

"It's with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency," said Dr Tedros during a press conference in Geneva.

The significant statement appears more than three years after the outbreak of COVID-19 was classified as a PHEIC on 30 January 2020.

Nevertheless, Dr Tedros warned that lifting the PHEIC classification did not indicate an end to the pandemic itself.

"That does not mean COVID-19 is over as a global health threat. Last week, COVID-19 claimed a life every three minutes." Dr Tedros stated.

Covid-19 virus (Creative Commons)

In the same statement, the WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR) committee also highlighted “the need to strengthen health systems, continue active risk communications and community engagement.”

The IHR committee also called for the implementation of a “One Health” approach to preparedness and response, and to integrate COVID-19 surveillance and response activities into routine health programmes.

The decision to lift the pandemic status, however, did not convince all health professionals and experts.

In a statement to the New York Times regarding the WHO’s decision, Dr. Margareth Dalcolmo, a respiratory physician and member of Brazil’s National Academy of Medicine, expressed her view that lifting the status was too early.

She added that research still needs to be undertaken on possible COVID-19 variants and on the development of multivalent vaccines.

As of May 3, there have been 765,222,932 confirmed cases of Covid globally, including 6,921,614 deaths reported to the WHO.


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