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COVID pandemic is no longer an emergency: WHO

Published: 11th May, 2023

Context

The World Health Organization that Covid-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency, marking a symbolic end to the devastating coronavirus pandemic that killed at least 7 million people worldwide.

Background

  • The novel viral infection came to light after China reported a cluster of pneumonia cases with no known cause from Wuhan on December 31, 2019.
  • WHO raised its highest level of alert and termed the infection a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), a designation that remained in place for over three years.

When does a health threat become ‘global emergency’?

  • The classification of a health threat as a global emergency is meant to warn political authorities that there is an extraordinary event that could constitute a health threat to other countries and requires a coordinated response to contain it.
  • WHO's emergency declarations are typically used as an international SOS for countries who need help.
  • They can also spur countries to introduce special measures to combat disease or release extra funds.
  • WHO is the only agency mandated to coordinate the world’s response to acute health threats.

Previous global emergencies

  • WHO has previously declared global emergencies for outbreaks of swine flu, Zika, Ebola, polio and mpox, formerly called monkeypox.
    • Polio was declared nearly nine years ago. Its emergency status has persisted.

Is Covid not a threat anymore?

  • Even though the emergency phase was over, the pandemic hasn’t come to an end, noting recent spikes in cases in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. 
  • That does not mean Covid-19 is over as a global health threat.

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