The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared an end to the global Covid-19 public health emergency, more than three years after the virus first emerged in Wuhan, China.
The WHO cited dropping Covid-19-related deaths and hospitalizations and rising levels of natural immunity to the virus as behind its decision, following a similar rationale as many countries who have also declared an end to the Covid-19 public health emergency in recent months and quarters.
The US, which lost over 1.1 million people to the virus in the last three years, the most out of any major nation, will end its emergency designation on the 11th of May.
But the WHO’s declaration does not mean the pandemic is over.
Rather, it signifies a shift in the way the international community will respond to the ongoing threat.
In a statement released on its website following the 15th meeting of the Emergency Committee, the WHO noted that challenges remain, including global inequality regarding health care and vaccine access, a still evolving virus and general “pandemic fatigue”.
In a recent news conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was keen to urge countries not to get complacent.
Countries should keep their Covid-19 protection systems in place and remind citizens that the virus, which is “here to stay”, is “still killing, and it’s still changing”.
The WHO said it plans to form a committee to come up with a plan of long-term management of the Covid-19 disease.
In the meantime, the agency said it will continue monitoring the virus’ ongoing spread, although these monitoring systems will be integrated into pre-existing influenza monitoring systems.
But the WHO’s decision to downgrade the Covid-19 pandemic from a public health emergency could have some unintended negative effects, some experts have warned.
University of California, San Francisco infectious disease expert Peter Chin-Hong warned that researchers might now have less available funding to tackle the virus with new vaccines and treatments.
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