WHO Ends Global Public Health Emergency for COVID-19, Emphasizes Long-Term Management
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on May 5 that COVID-19 is no longer a global public health emergency. The decision was based on declining COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations, as well as high levels of immunity from vaccination or prior infection. While the pandemic is not over, WHO stated that it is time to transition to more long-term prevention and control measures for the disease.
The move by WHO aligns with similar actions taken by many countries. The United States, for example, is set to end its public health emergency on May 11. However, experts caution that this does not mean the virus is no longer a global health threat.
As of May 3, over 750 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO worldwide, with nearly 7 million deaths, including over 1.1 million in the United States alone. The global public health emergency declaration was initially made by WHO on January 30, 2020, marking the highest level of alarm under international law. Two months later, the organization declared the outbreak a pandemic.
While progress has been made in terms of testing, vaccines, and treatments since the declarations, challenges remain. Global inequities in accessing care and vaccines, the ongoing evolution of the virus, and pandemic fatigue are among the hurdles in managing the disease. WHO plans to form a committee to examine long-term management strategies, and disease monitoring will be integrated into existing global influenza data systems.
The end of the public health emergency designation may have implications for COVID-19 tracking data, potentially leading to further declines in data completeness. Additionally, funding for research and development of new vaccines and treatments could be affected. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of maintaining COVID-19 systems and raising awareness about the continued danger posed by SARS-CoV-2.
In conclusion, while the global public health emergency for COVID-19 has ended, vigilance and sustained efforts are necessary to manage the ongoing threat of the virus.