COVID-19 is no more a public health emergency: WHO
Geneva: Concurring with the advice offered by the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General determined that COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
It was on January 30, 2020, when on the advice of an Emergency Committee convened under the International Health Regulations, the WHO D-G declared a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of COVID-19 – the highest level of alarm under international law.
“Yesterday, the Emergency Committee met for the 15th time and recommended to me that I declare an end to the public health emergency of international concern. I have accepted that advice. It is therefore with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today. He though warned, “That does not mean COVID-19 is over as a global health threat. Last week, COVID-19 claimed a life every three minutes – and that’s just the deaths we know about”.
The D-G said the COVID-19 virus was here to stay. “It is still killing, and it’s still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths…If need be, I will not hesitate to convene another Emergency Committee should COVID-19 once again put our world in peril.”
During the fifteenth meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee regarding the pandemic, members highlighted the decreasing trend in COVID-19 deaths, the decline in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2. The Committee was informed that, globally, 13.3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered. Currently, 89% of health workers and 82% of adults over 60 years 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.
While acknowledging the remaining uncertainties posed by the potential evolution of SARS-CoV-2, the Committee advised that it is time to transition to long-term management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee considered the three criteria of a PHEIC: whether COVID-19 continues to constitute 1) an extraordinary event, 2) a public health risk to other States through the international spread, and 3) potentially requires a coordinated international response. They discussed the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic. They acknowledged that, although SARS-CoV-2 has been and will continue circulating widely and evolving, it is no longer an unusual or unexpected event. The Committee recognized that the Director-General may decide to convene an IHR Emergency Committee on COVID-19 in the future if the situation requires it.
The WHO recommended that all State parties integrate COVID-19 vaccination into life course vaccination programmes and continue to support research to improve vaccines that reduce transmission, among other recommendations.
– global bihari bureau