The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that COVID-19 is no longer a “global health emergency.”
In a press conference on May 5, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “COVID-19 has been so much more than a health crisis, disrupting economies, travel, shattering businesses and plunging millions into poverty.” He went on to say that “For more than a year the pandemic has been on a downward trend.”
“This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19,” he continued. “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. I have accepted that advice.”
Despite the downward trend, Tedros emphasized that the declaration does not mean that COVID-19 is no longer a threat. “The worst thing any country could do now is to use this news as a reason to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that COVID-19 is nothing to worry about,” he said. Cases and deaths are the lowest they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. However, according to WHO, 3,178 people have died from COVID in the past week (as of May 10th). Some models continue to estimate that excess mortality is still closer to 10,000 deaths per day. Additionally, there are many people dealing with the effects of long-COVID worldwide.
COVID-19 was first named as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30, 2020. At that time, there were fewer than 10,000 cases of the virus reported. It would also be another six weeks until it was upgraded to a pandemic in March.
A PHEIC is a formal declaration of “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.” The declaration is meant to mobilize a response from countries who abide by the WHO’s recommendations to manage the emergency. Each country can then declare their own public emergency which may affect travel, trade, screening, or treatments.
In addition to the global health emergency ending, the United States intends to end its public health emergency in May.