The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the global health emergency posed by Covid-19 is over – but stressed that the disease remained a ‘global health threat’.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO said today that for over a year, the Covid-19 pandemic had been ‘on a downward trend’, due to population immunity increasing from vaccination and infection, mortality decreasing and the pressure on health systems easing.
He said that over the last twelve months, WHO and the Emergency Committee convened under the International Health Regulations, ‘have been analysing the data carefully and considering when the time would be right to lower the level of alarm’.
Based on their recommendations, he today declared Covid-19 over as a global health emergency, making the statement ‘with great hope’ he said.
But he stressed that ‘that does not mean Covid-19 is over as a global health threat’, with one person dying from Covid-19 every three minutes, thousands of people around the world currently in intensive care units with the condition and ‘millions more’ suffering the effects of long Covid.
‘This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it’s still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths,’ he said.
He added that ‘the worst thing any country could do now’ would be ‘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’.
‘What this news means is that it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing Covid-19 alongside other infectious diseases,’ added Dr Tedros.
He also celebrated the efforts of healthcare workers in helping to control the virus.
‘We have arrived at this moment thanks to the incredible skill and selfless dedication of health and care workers,’ Dr Tedros said.
And he added that ‘the suffering we have endured, the painful lessons we have learned, the investments we have made and the capacities we have built must not go to waste’.
‘We owe it to those we have lost to leverage those investments; to build on those capacities; to learn those lessons, and to transform that suffering into meaningful and lasting change,’ he added, urging ‘a commitment to future generations that we will not go back to the old cycle of panic and neglect that left our world vulnerable’.
A version of this article first appeared in our sister publication, The Pharmacist