Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared on Friday that the COVID-19 pandemic would no longer be designated as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
According to Tedros, the COVID-19 spread “is no longer an unusual or unexpected event” and “the world has made significant and impressive global progress since the declaration of the PHEIC in January 2020,” making it possible to change the approach to tackling the disease.
The PHEIC designation is one of the most serious warnings that the World Health Organization may issue in the event of a disease epidemic or other health crisis. It is given to situations that “require immediate international action” and endanger the health and safety of multiple countries, if not the whole world. Tedros named the then-epidemic coronavirus a PHEIC on January 30, 2020, roughly a month after Taiwan initially notified the World Health Organization of the outbreak of an unknown infectious illness in central China.
Tedros made the announcement during a meeting of the World Health Organization's emergency conference to handle the epidemic.
“With great hope I declare COVID-19 [Wuhan coronavirus] over as a global health emergency,” he wrote on social media.
The WHO released a statement explaining the rationale for the announcement. It says, “the decreasing trend in COVID-19 deaths, the decline in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes Wuhan coronavirus disease].”
“While the global risk assessment remains high, there is evidence of reducing risks to human health driven mainly by high population-level immunity from infection, vaccination, or both;” the agency also said, “consistent virulence of currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sub-lineages compared to previously circulating Omicron sub-lineages; and improved clinical case management.”
“These factors have contributed to a significant global decline in the weekly number of COVID-19 related deaths, hospitalizations, and admissions to intensive care units since the beginning of the pandemic,” it went on to say. “While SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, the currently circulating variants do not appear to be associated with increased severity.”
The change in status will allow the World Health Organization to treat the virus as a long-term challenge rather than an ongoing emergency. Notwithstanding the de-escalation of the emergency posture, the agency stated that it will continue to market vaccination goods and try to enhance access to these products in impoverished countries. Vaccination goods that the World Health Organization authorized in an emergency procedure will continue to be sold under those licenses, it added.
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Several vaccines that were first promoted as being at the forefront of combating the illness have subsequently been discontinued. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States announced in April that it had withdrawn emergency use authorization for the original monovalent mRNA-technology vaccine products developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, citing the fact that they did not address the most common variants currently in circulation. The FDA stated that it will continue to approve revised vaccination formulations that addressed the “omicron” subvariants of the Wuhan coronavirus produced by those businesses.
The World Health Organization finished its statement with recommendations to nations, including demands to “integrate” coronavirus vaccine products into current immunization regimens for other illnesses and to lift all coronavirus travel restrictions.
COVID-19 initially appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. According to stolen Chinese government data obtained by the South China Morning Post, the authorities identified the first human illness on November 17, 2019. In the final days of December 2019, the Taiwanese government alerted the World Health Organization to the existence of a new disease, despite the WHO blocking the island nation's membership in the organization, noting that its intelligence revealed fear among health workers of the spread of an unidentified infectious disease. In the letter, Taiwanese officials mentioned the necessity for patients to be isolated, implying human-to-human transmission.
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