Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has declared that COVID-19 is no longer a “global health emergency”.
This was contained in a statement on the 15th meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The statement indicated that the Committee members highlighted the decreasing trend in COVID-19 deaths, the decline in COVID-19 related hospitalisations and intensive care unit admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
“The Committee’s position has been evolving over the last several months. While acknowledging the remaining uncertainties posted by potential evolution of SARS-CoV-2, they advised that it is time to transition to long-term management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The WHO Director-General concurs with the advice offered by the Committee regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He determines that COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC),” the statement indicated.
The announcement represents a major step towards ending the pandemic and comes three years after it first declared its highest level of alert over the virus.
Officials said the virus’ death rate had dropped from a peak of more than 100,000 people per week in January 2021 to just over 3,500 on April 24.
The head of the WHO said at least seven million people died in the pandemic.
Dr. Ghebreyesus however warned the decision to remove the highest level of alert did not mean the danger was over, and said the emergency status could be reinstated if the situation changed.
“The WHO Director-General will convene an IHR Review Committee to advise on Standing Recommendations for the long-term management of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, taking into account the 2023-2025 COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.
“During this transition, States Parties are advised to continue following the issued Temporary Recommendations. The Director-General expressed his sincere gratitude to the Chair, the Members, and the Advisors of the Committee for their engagement and advice during the last three years,” the statement indicated.
“The worst thing any country can 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,” it added.
The World Health Organisation first declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020.
Vaccines were one of the major turning points in the pandemic – allowing millions of people to be protected from serious illness and death.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri