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Global Threat To COVID–19 Comes To An End, Says WHO

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After over three years since the COVID-19 virus was declared and that caused the death of more than 6.9 million people worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO), on Friday, announced the end of the global emergency and said that nations should control the virus now, along with other diseases.

The United Nations had declared the global pandemic as a “public health emergency of international concern” which was the highest level of alert for any disease, in January 2020. However, its Emergency Committee on Thursday suggested that the global organization announce an end to this alert.

The announcement about the end of the infectious disease crisis was made by the UN organization as a “public health emergency of international concern”, its highest caution was declared Jan 30, 2020, onwards, after the global health agency’s Emergency Committee met on Thursday.  

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said, “It is therefore with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency” while pointing out the fact that the end of the COVID-19 crisis does not indicate the end of its threat. 

Some members of WHO became emotional while briefing the press, persuading the nations to reflect on what lessons the pandemic has left us with. 

Maria Van Kerkhove, who took WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said, “We can’t forget those fire pyres. We can’t forget the graves that were dug. None of us up here will forget them.”

According to WHO data, the COVID death rate has been reduced from its peak of over 100,000 people every week in January 2021 to about 3,500 in a week on April 24, 2023, due to the large-scale vaccination programs, access to better treatments and increased population immunity from the previous infections.

Michael Ryan, emergencies director at WHO, said, “The battle is not over. We still have weaknesses and those weaknesses that we still have in our system will be exposed by this virus or another virus. And it needs to be fixed.”

The WHO does not specify the beginning or end of the pandemic, however, it did begin mentioning the term for COVID in March 2020.

“In most cases, pandemics truly end when the next pandemic begins,” Ryan said.

US President Joe Biden announced the pandemic was over in 2022. Along with the rest of the countries, the US administration has started pulling down the regulations for a state of emergency for COVID that will officially end on May 11. This means that it will not be paying for vaccines as well as tests on people and concentrate its focus on the commercial market.

In April 2022, the global emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic came to an end while other regions had adopted the same, the European Union said.

‘Significant public health problem’

Four months after China dismantled its regulations for COVID and led to the infectious surge worldwide, the WHO made its declaration.

The decision also suggests that WHO advisers believe a new, more dangerous coronavirus variant is unlikely to emerge in the coming months, although the virus remains unpredictable.

The decision implies that there’s a belief among WHO advisors that even though the virus is unpredictable, a more lethal COVID variant will not rise in the upcoming months.

WHO chief Tedros said, “I will not hesitate to convene another emergency committee should COVID-19 once again put our world in peril.”

COVID testing has significantly decreased, and most people have stopped wearing masks worldwide. Some countries have mandated wearing masks again during COVID outbreaks. The WHO also released an advisory for countries to co-exist with COVID in the long term.

Experts of infectious diseases say that COVID will continue to affect health systems worldwide in the long run.

An epidemiologist, Mark Woolhouse, at the University of Edinburgh, said, “No one should take (this) to mean COVID-19 is no longer a problem. It is still a significant public health problem and looks likely to remain one for the foreseeable future.”

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