The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that Covid-19 is no longer a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus “determines that Covid-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”
The decision was made after the 15th meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Emergency Committee on May 4, 2023.
The committee highlighted the decreasing trend in Covid-19 deaths, decline in Covid-19 related hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
While acknowledging the uncertainties posed by the potential evolution of the virus, the committee advised that it is time to transition to long-term management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ghebreyesus concurred with the committee’s advice and determined that Covid-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue that no longer constitutes a PHEIC.
However, he warned that the virus is still a significant threat and advised states to continue following the issued Temporary Recommendations until a review committee can advise on Standing Recommendations for the long-term management of the pandemic, taking into account the 2023-2025 Covid-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.
The WHO’s decision comes as some countries have talked about “living with the virus” and have wound down many of the tests and social mixing rules.
However, Dr Mike Ryan, from the WHO’s health emergencies program, has warned that the threat of Covid-19 is still present and that “we fully expect that this virus will continue to transmit.”
The WHO and its member states are discussing an international treaty or similar mechanism to draw lessons from the pandemic and ensure a more effective and equitable response to the next one.
This announcement marks a significant step towards ending the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed millions of people and wreaked economic and social havoc globally.