The World Health Organization today ended its designation of Covid as a “global health emergency.”
WHO director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement, tweeted out by WHO, that it is “with great hope” that he declares Covid-19 “over as a global health emergency,” but added, “that does not mean Covid-19 is over as a global health threat.”
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“Last week, Covid-19 claimed a life every three minutes – and that’s just the deaths we know about,” he wrote.
The news comes just a week before the May 11 date when the United States will end its declaration of Covid as a Public Health Emergency. Officially, Covid will remain a “public health priority,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services. In practical terms, the transition will have a minimal impact on most Americans – access to vaccinations and treatment generally will not be affected, though Medicare beneficiaries will no longer have access to free over-the-counter Covid tests. For additional details, see this Health and Human Services fact sheet.
Similarly, the WHO declaration shouldn’t have a big practical impact since many countries previously ended states of emergency. Covid will retain its global status as a pandemic.
At a press conference today, Ghebreyesus said that the pandemic has been on a downward trend for the past year, allowing “most countries to return to life as we knew it before Covid-19.”
WHO first declared Covid a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020. Six week later Covid was deemed a pandemic.
According to CNN, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Covid technical lead and head of its program on emerging disease, cautioned that the emergency phase of the crisis may be over but the disease is “here to stay.”
“While we’re not in the crisis mode, we can’t let our guard down,” Van Kerkhove said. “Epidemiologically, this virus will continue to cause waves. What we are hopeful of is that we have the tools in place to ensure that the future waves do not result in more severe disease, don’t result in waves of death and we can do that with the tools we have at hand. We just need to make sure that we are tracking the virus because it will continue to evolve.”
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