COVID-19 global health emergency over, says WHO
After 3 years of global mayhem, the COVID-19 pandemic global health emergency is finally over. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the end of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency phase on Friday about a week before the public health emergency (PHE) restrictions end in the U.S.
“COVID-19 has been so much more than a health crisis. It has caused severe economic upheaval, erasing trillions from GDP, disrupting travel and trade, shuttering businesses, and plunging millions into poverty.” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General in a press conference in Geneva.
“It’s therefore with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency.”
WHO has reported nearly 7 million deaths worldwide from COVID-19 since it began, with more than 1 million in the United States. Tedros adds “we know the [death] toll is several times higher, at least 20 million.”
Adapting to new normal
“What this news means is that it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing COVID-19 alongside other infectious diseases,” Tedros continued.
He stresses that COVID-19 still remains a threat. Last week alone COVID-19 took a life every three minutes.
“The worst thing any country could do now is to use this news as a reason to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that COVID-19 is nothing to worry about,” he said.
The “painful lessons” we have learned must not go to waste, Tedros urges. “We owe it to those we have lost.”
Using a provision in the International Health Regulations, Tedros announced he is establishing a Review Committee to create a long-term COVID-19 management plan that includes standing public health recommendations for countries.
As COVID-19 moves through its fourth year, the WHO also released the fourth edition of the Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19, which provides essential actions for countries in five areas: collaborative surveillance, community protection, safe and scalable care, access to countermeasures, and emergency coordination.
The manual is intended to help nations strengthen their public health initiatives and response efforts so history will not repeat itself.
“We have the tools and the technologies to prepare for pandemics better, to detect them earlier, to respond to them faster, and to mitigate their impact. But globally, a lack of coordination, a lack of equity and a lack of solidarity meant that those tools were not used as effectively as they could have been. Lives were lost that should not have been,” Tedros said.
“We must promise ourselves and our children and grandchildren that we will never make those mistakes again. That’s what the pandemic accord and the amendments to the International Health Regulations that countries are now negotiating are about, a commitment to future generations that we will not go back to the old cycle of panic and neglect that left our world vulnerable but move forward with a shared commitment to meet shared threats with a shared response.”