WHO downgrades COVID pandemic, says it’s no longer an emergency

Maria Chen and Jamie Keaten

GENEVA (AP) — COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency, the World Health Organization said Friday, triggering once-unthinkable lockdowns, disrupting economies and causing hundreds of deaths around the world. A symbolic end to the devastating coronavirus pandemic that has killed millions of people.

More than three years after the WHO declared the coronavirus a global crisis, the announcement will bring some if not the end to a pandemic that has stirred fear and suspicion, strangled and condemned the world. provide relief for

An official with the United Nations Health Organization said although the state of emergency is over, the pandemic isn’t over yet, citing recent spikes in cases in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The WHO says thousands of people still die from the virus every week, and millions more suffer debilitating long-term effects.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “It is a great hope to declare COVID-19 a global health emergency.

“That doesn’t mean COVID-19 is over as a global health threat,” he said, warning that new variants could still emerge. Tedros pointed out that the official death toll from COVID-19 puts him at 7 million, but the real figure is estimated to be at least 20 million.

Tedros said the pandemic has been on a downward trend for more than a year, acknowledging that most countries have returned to their pre-COVID-19 lives.

He lamented the damage COVID-19 has done to the international community, saying the pandemic has shattered businesses, exacerbated political divisions, led to the spread of misinformation and pushed millions into poverty. .

Political repercussions in some countries were swift and unrelenting. Some experts say President Donald Trump’s failure to run for re-election in 2020 is partly due to his administration’s failure to respond to the pandemic.

Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergency chief, said negotiating a broad pandemic treaty is a critical step for world leaders and other leaders to determine how future health threats will be addressed. said that it is the responsibility of

Ryan noted several scenes during COVID-19 where people resorted to “oxygen cylinders and bartering,” struggled to get into the emergency room, and died in parking lots because they didn’t get treatment. said it should never be repeated.

When the United Nations Health Organization first declared coronavirus international crisis As of January 30, 2020, it had not yet been named COVID-19 and had no major outbreaks outside of China.

More than three years later, the virus has caused an estimated 764 million cases worldwide, and nearly 5 billion people have received at least one vaccination.

In the United States, the public health emergency declared over COVID-19 is set to expire on May 11, ending a wide range of measures to support the pandemic response, including mandatory vaccines. increase. Many other countries, including Germany, France and the UK, dropped most of their pandemic provisions last year.

When Tedros declared COVID-19 a state of emergency in 2020, he said his biggest fear was the potential spread of the virus in countries with weak health systems.

In fact, some of the countries with the fewest deaths from COVID-19 were previously judged to be the most prepared for the pandemic, including the US and UK. According to WHO data, Africa accounts for only 3% of all deaths reported worldwide.

WHO does not “declare” a pandemic, but it was the first to use the term to describe an outbreak. March 2020When the virus spread to every continent except Antarctica, long after many other scientists said a pandemic was already underway.

The WHO is the only body charged with coordinating the global response to acute health threats, but the organization has repeatedly stalled as the coronavirus unfolded.

In January 2020, the WHO openly praised China’s supposed swift and transparent response. Private meeting obtained by Associated Press Government officials expressed frustration at the lack of national cooperation.

The WHO has also not recommended mask-wearing in public for many months.

Many scientists also criticize the WHO’s unwillingness to admit that COVID-19 is frequently spread through the air and by asymptomatic people, and have urged the WHO to provide strong guidance to prevent such exposure. criticized for lacking

Tedros is loud critic A number of wealthy countries that have stockpiled limited supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine have warned the world is on the brink of a ‘catastrophic moral failure’ by failing to share a shot with poor countries. bottom.

Most recently, the WHO has struggled to investigate the origin of the coronavirus, a challenging scientific endeavour, and one that also has political issues.

After a weeks-long visit to China, the WHO report In 2021, it concluded that COVID-19 most likely jumped from animals to humans, dismissing the possibility that it originated in a laboratory as “highly unlikely.”

However, the UN agency retracted the following year, saying “critical data” were still missing and it was premature to rule out the possibility that COVID-19 was linked to the lab.

Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh, has described COVID-19 as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime disaster’ and widespread immunity to the virus means we are now in a new phase of the outbreak. I said I will.

Woolhouse noted that the WHO’s handling of the pandemic, in addition to the response of member states and others, has also been subject to significant criticism.

He lamented that shutting down much of society has not only caused a lot of “self-harm” but also that the global community has missed many opportunities to stop the coronavirus early.

“Given the constant threat of another pandemic, lessons need to be learned,” he said.


Maria Chen reports from London.

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