COVID-19 no longer a global health emergency, WHO declares

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A lab technician uses a single channel pipette dropper to test material during COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test processing at a laboratory in the Dunkeld suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday 5, May 2023 declared that COVID-19 is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The decision which comes three years after a global alert was issued for countries to take precautionary measures over the acute viral respiratory disease spreading quickly was reached during the 15th meeting of the International Health Regulations held on Thursday 4, May 2023.

According to a statement released on Friday 5th, during the session committee members highlighted the decreasing trend in COVID-19 deaths, the decline in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Data by WHO shows that the death rate had dropped significantly from 100,000 per week in 2021 to just about 3,000 deaths per week as of April 2023.

These strides are partly attributed to high vaccination coverage where 13.3 billion vaccine doses have been dispensed covering 89 per cent of healthcare Workers globally and 82 per cent of adults aged 60 and above.

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“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 statement reads in part.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director General says although the virus remains a threat he 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).

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World Health Organization (WHO), Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

During this transition, States Parties are advised to continue following the issued temporary recommendations which include collaborative surveillance and intergrating COVID-19 vaccines in life Course vaccination programmes.

More than 765 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded globally.