Covid-19 no longer a public health emergency: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO), during its 15th meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Emergency Committee, declared that Covid-19 is no longer a health emergency of any concern.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, with advice offered by the Committee, determined: "Covid-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue that no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)."
The meeting was held on May 4, 2023, in which committee members highlighted the decreasing trend in Covid-19 deaths, the decline in Covid-19-related hospitalisations and intensive care unit admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
While acknowledging the remaining uncertainties posed by the potential evolution of SARS-CoV-2, they advised that it is time to transition to long-term management of the Covid-19 pandemic. The WHO Director General noted that the number of weekly reported deaths and hospitalisations continue to decrease but expressed concern that surveillance reporting to WHO has declined significantly.
"There continues to be inequitable access to life-saving interventions, and that pandemic fatigue continues to grow," he further said. While the global risk assessment remains high, there is evidence of reducing risks to human health, driven mainly by high population-level immunity from infection, vaccination, or both.
According to the WHO report, globally 13.3 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered. Currently, 89 per cent of health workers and 82 per cent of adults over 60 have completed the primary series (the initial one or two doses recommended as per the vaccine schedule), although coverage in these priority groups varies in different regions.
These factors have contributed to a significant global decline in the weekly number of Covid-19-related deaths, hospitalisations, and admissions to intensive care units since the beginning of the pandemic.
"While SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, the currently circulating variants do not appear to be associated with increased severity," says the report.
The Director General also announced the publication of the 2023–2025 Covid-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, which is designed to guide countries in transitioning to long-term management of Covid-19.
This plan outlines important actions for countries to consider in five areas: Collaborative surveillance, community protection, safe and scalable care, access to countermeasures, and emergency co-ordination.
Along with other infectious diseases, the Covid-19 virus has killed more than 6.9 million people since its inception, halting the world's economy and normal life.
Despite no longer being a public health emergency, it will still be a health concern, and the world still needs to be cautious to avoid any sort of emergency in the future.