The World Health Organization (WHO) on May 5 declared an end to the COVID-19 global health emergency.
The public health emergency of international concern has been in place since Jan. 30, 2020.
WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus made the decision based on recommendations from WHO’s emergency committee.
The decision means “that it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing COVID-19 alongside other infectious diseases,” Ghebreyesus said at a press conference from Geneva.
Officials cited how COVID-19 cases have been dropping for months and the continued uptick in the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 and/or been vaccinated.
“This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19,” Ghebreyesus said.
The end of the emergency does not mean the threat of COVID-19 has disappeared, he said, noting that people are still dying from the disease.
“This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it is still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and death,” he said. “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.”
WHO officials have consistently pushed measures such as travel bans and COVID-19 vaccination, which they have said helped deal with the pandemic. Some countries that performed well in metrics such as COVID-19 deaths, though, declined to impose some of the harshest measures. The vaccines were never proven to prevent transmission or infection and have been performing worse against newer variants.
The decision came about a week before the United States is letting its COVID-19 public health emergency declaration expire. A related declaration was ended in April when President Joe Biden signed a bill that he opposed but was approved by Congress.
While the end of the public health emergency means disbanding WHO’s emergency committee, WHO officials have decided to use an international regulation never triggered before that establishes a new committee that will focus on developing long-term recommendations for countries on how to manage COVID-19 moving forward.
WHO is already negotiating with countries on pandemic accords. The United States could end up ceding power to the United Nations agency, critics have warned. WHO and the White House have said that a pact would help the world prepare for the next pandemic.
From The Epoch Times