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Covid-19 global health emergency over, but threat remains, says WHO

The global health emergency posed by Covid-19 is over, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared, while also stressing that the disease remains a ‘global health threat’.

For over a year, the Covid-19 pandemic had been ‘on a downward trend’, due to population immunity increasing from vaccination and infection, mortality decreasing and the pressure on health systems easing, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO.

WHO and the Emergency Committee, convened under the International Health Regulations, ‘have been analysing the data carefully and considering when the time would be right to lower the level of alarm’ over the last twelve months.

Based on their recommendations, Dr Tedros declared Covid-19 over as a global health emergency on 5 Mya 2023, making the statement ‘with great hope’ he said.

Covid-19 remains a threat

‘That does not mean Covid-19 is over as a global health threat’, he stressed. Indeed, one person dies from Covid-19 every three minutes, thousands of people around the world are currently in intensive care units with the condition and there are ‘millions more’ suffering the effects of long-Covid.

‘This virus is 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,’ Dr Tedros said, warning countries to be complacent. ‘The worst thing any country could do now’ would be ‘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’.

Instead, he advised countries to transition from ’emergency mode to managing Covid-19 alongside other infectious diseases’,’ added Dr Tedros’, evidence of which has been seen recently with WHO’s recent pulse survey revealing a move towards restoring essential health services.

‘Skill and selfless dedication’

Dr Tedros also celebrated the efforts of healthcare workers in helping to control Covid-19.

‘We have arrived at this moment thanks to the incredible skill and selfless dedication of health and care workers,’ he said. ‘The suffering we have endured, the painful lessons we have learned, the investments we have made and the capacities we have built must not go to waste’.

‘We owe it to those we have lost to leverage those investments; to build on those capacities; to learn those lessons, and to transform that suffering into meaningful and lasting change,’ he added, urging ‘a commitment to future generations that we will not go back to the old cycle of panic and neglect that left our world vulnerable’.

A version of this story was originally published by our sister publication The Pharmacist.

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