Covid-19 is no longer classified as a “global health emergency” by the World Health Organization (WHO). The decision was made by the WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee during its 15th meeting on Covid-19 on Thursday, May 4.
Speaking at a conference on Friday, May 5, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he concurs that the public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, declaration should end.
“For more than a year the pandemic has been on a downward trend. This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before Covid-19,” Tedros said. “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.” he said
The organization declared the Coronavirus outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020, about six weeks before characterizing it as a pandemic. The United States is set to let its Covid-19 public health emergency end on May 11.
There have been more than 765 million confirmed Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to WHO data. Nearly 7 million people have died. Europe has had the most confirmed cases overall, but the Americas have reported the most deaths. About 1 in 6 total deaths have been in the US.
The statement represents a major step towards ending the pandemic and comes three years after it first declared its highest level of alert over the virus.
Officials said the virus’ death rate had dropped from a peak of more than 100,000 people per week in January 2021 to just over 3,500 on 24 April.
The head of the WHO said at least seven million people died in the pandemic.
But Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the true figure was “likely” closer to 20 million deaths – nearly three times the official estimate – and he warned that the virus remained a significant threat.
“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’ve accepted that advice. It’s therefore with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency,” Dr Tedros said.