Coronavirus: WHO declares end to global public health emergency

The World Health Organization on Friday declared an end to the global public health emergency stemming from COVID-19.

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At a news conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that a committee of the United Nations’ health agency has been analyzing data for the last year and weighing when to ease the level of alarm over the pandemic. During a meeting Thursday, the group suggested that Ghebreyesus end the global public health emergency, advice which the director-general said he accepted.

“For more than a year, the pandemic has been on a downward trend with population immunity increasing from vaccination and infection, mortality decreasing and the pressure on health systems easing,” Ghebreyesus said on Friday. “This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19.”

The director-general emphasized that COVID-19 remains “a global health threat,” noting that the viral infection “claimed a life every three minutes” last week, “and that’s just the deaths we know about.”

The WHO declared coronavirus a public health emergency in January 2020 as more than a dozen countries dealt with confirmed infections. In the ensuing months and years, more than 676 million cases of the viral infection would be reported worldwide, resulting in over 6.8 million deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Ghebreyesus said Friday that despite the official tally, “we know the (death) toll is several times higher — at least 20 million.”

The virus disrupted daily life for people around the world, halting international travel for months and causing economic upheaval. Some areas enacted lockdowns to control the spread of the virus, including many cities and states.

Last month, President Joe Biden officially ended the national COVID-19 emergency declaration, which was also issued in 2020.

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