WHO: Covid-19 global health emergency is over

by THOMAS MULIER

COVID-19 no longer constitutes a global health emergency, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, lowering its alert level three years after the novel coronavirus began killing millions as it swept across the world.

The WHO said last Friday it’s time to transition to long-term management of the pandemic after a panel met last Thursday to discuss the recent evolution of the disease.

The move is largely symbolic, given that most countries have returned to normal social behaviours, relaxing lockdowns and masking guidelines while reopening borders to travel. The US is preparing to end the public health emergency on May 11 as Covid infections return to levels seen at the outbreak’s beginning in 2020.

Covid has resulted in at least 20 million deaths worldwide, WHO DG Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (picture) said last Friday, adding that in the previous week it was still killing one person every three minutes.

The WHO had declared Covid-19 a public health emergency of international concern in late January 2020, as infections began spreading from the original epicentre of

Wuhan, China. At the time, there was still considerable uncertainty about the disease’s deadliness and how infections were transmitted.

The emergency status known as PHEIC — pronounced “fake” — applies to an extraordinary event that carries a public-health risk via the global spread of a disease, and one that potentially requires a coordinated response.

The WHO is still using the word “pandemic” to describe the disease and Tedros highlighted the risk that Covid-19 becomes more dangerous again through mutations.

“This virus is here to stay,” he said. “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.”

Tedros said he wouldn’t hesitate if necessary to reconvene an emergency committee if Covid-19 would start to become a bigger global danger again. — Bloomberg


  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition