WHO Ends COVID Global Health Emergency

The World Health Organization (WHO) downgraded the threat level of COVID on Friday, saying it no longer qualifies as a global emergency.

WHO Ends COVID Global Health Emergency
Image credit: CNN

Facts

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) downgraded the threat level of COVID on Friday, saying it no longer qualifies as a global emergency.1
  • The WHO first gave COVID its highest designation on Jan. 30, 2020, and its panel has continued to apply the label at meetings held every three months. WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that yesterday the committee held its 15th meeting and recommended ending the public health emergency.2
  • The change in status for COVID came more than three years after its original declaration, with more than 6.9M people dying from the virus. The change, the organization says, reflects widespread vaccination efforts, the availability of better treatments, and population immunity from prior infections.3
  • Tedros also underlined how although COVID is no longer a global emergency, “that does not mean COVID-19 is over as a global health threat,” warning that it is still possible that new variants could emerge. He also noted that while the official COVID death toll was close to 7M, the real figure was estimated to be 20M or more.4
  • A public health emergency is an agreement between countries that follow WHO’s recommendations for managing the emergency. The US is expected to end its COVID public health emergency on May 11.5
  • Even though the emergency phase is over, the WHO says that the COVID pandemic declared in March 2020 has not yet ended. The WHO referenced recent spikes in cases across the Middle East and Southeast Asia.6

Sources: 1BBC News, 2Guardian, 3Reuters, 4Associated Press, 5CNN, and 6Al Jazeera.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Al Jazeera. Lifting the global emergency label on COVID is a sign of the progress the world has achieved. While the virus still poses a threat, many regions of the world have adapted and the pandemic has receded in these places. The situation must continue to be assessed, but for now, it is no longer a global health emergency and it is time to begin moving on.
  • Narrative B, as provided by Guardian. COVID is not over. The virus continues to kill someone every three minutes. The ending of the global health emergency label sends a dangerous message that may cause people to become complacent. One of the worst things countries could do right now is to dismantle the programs and protections created to deal with the virus and its long-lasting effects.

Predictions