Covid-19 is “no longer a global health emergency”, in the view of the World Health Organization (WHO), which has downgraded the level of threat posed by the coronavirus after three years at the highest level of alert.
Speaking at a press conference on 5 May, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus The pandemic has been on a “downward trajectory” for more than a year, said vaccination and increased population immunity to infection, which has reduced mortality and reduced pressure on health services. “This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before Covid-19,” he said.
“Yesterday, the Emergency Committee met for the 15th time and recommended to me that I declare an end to the Public Health Emergency of International Concern [PHEIC],” he added. “I’ve taken that advice”.
After the initial outbreak of the virus in China in December 2019 spread to 18 other countries, COVID-19 was declared a PHEIC on 30 January 2020.
This is the highest alarm the WHO can sound of a global threat to public health, such events are considered exceptional, constitute an international public health threat and require a coordinated international response.
The conclusion of the PHEIC Declaration is a major symbolic step towards the end of the pandemic. It also means that countries are no longer obliged to share health data with the WHO.
According to WHO, since 2020, COVID-19 has infected more than 765 million people and killed more than 7 million people worldwide. But thanks to mutations in the virus and the global vaccine rollout, the disease is now less likely to become a serious illness.
Many countries have returned to near-normality in recent months, with social distancing, mask-wearing and testing banned by many governments, including the US and UK.
But Tedros warned that the coronavirus is “here to stay”, stressing that countries will now need to transition towards managing the virus in the same way as other infectious diseases such as the flu.
“It is still killing and it is still changing. There remains a risk of new variants emerging that lead to new surges in cases and deaths,” he said. Maybe, he is using this news to let his guard down, dismantle the systems he has built or send the message to his people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about.”
Tedros said that while the emergency committee would now be disbanded, a new review committee would be set up to develop long-term recommendations to advise countries on the management of COVID-19 on an ongoing basis.