WHO says COVID is no longer a global emergency, but pandemic is not over

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) — The World Health Organization said Friday that COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency, triggering a once-unthinkable lockdown, disrupting economies around the world and It marked a symbolic end to the devastating coronavirus pandemic that has killed at least 7 million people. People all over the world.

The WHO first declared COVID-19 an emergency over three years ago. An official with the United Nations health agency said the emergency phase was over but the pandemic was not over, citing recent spikes in cases in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. They say they are still dying from the virus.

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

“That does not mean that COVID-19 is over as a global health threat,” he said, adding that if COVID-19 “endangers our world,” the situation will be reassessed. He added that he would not hesitate to reconvene the experts to do so.

Ghebreyesus 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 virus has shattered businesses, exacerbated political divisions and pushed millions into poverty. Ghebreyesus also noted that at least 20 million people likely died from his COVID-19, well above his officially reported 7 million.

An Israeli girl will receive Pfizer and Biontech’s first COVID-19 vaccine from medical staff at Clarit Health Services in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Bailty)

“COVID has changed our world and changed us,” he said, warning that the risk of new variants still remains.

WHO’s emergency chief Dr. Michael Ryan said the many problems that hampered the world’s response to COVID-19 make it difficult to determine how future health threats will be addressed. said it was the responsibility of heads of state and other leaders. Countries are negotiating a pandemic treaty that may have some hope of clarifying how they will face future disease threats, but such a treaty could be legally binding. is low.

Workers in protective clothing wait to be tested for COVID-19 at a quiet coronavirus testing station in Beijing on December 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

When the United Nations Health Organization first declared the coronavirus a global crisis on January 30, 2020, it had yet to be 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 many of their pandemic provisions last year.

When Ghebreyesus declared COVID-19 an emergency in 2020, his biggest fear was that the virus could spread in countries with weak health systems he said were “unprepared.” said it is.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addresses the daily press conference on the COVID-19 virus at WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 9, 2020 (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

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.

The WHO has not “declared” a pandemic, but in March 2020, when the virus had spread to all continents except Antarctica, after many other scientists said a pandemic was already underway. We first used the term to describe an outbreak.

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 publicly praised China for its swift and transparent response, but government officials were frustrated by China’s lack of cooperation, according to private meeting transcripts obtained by the AP. I was.

Workers are seen wearing protective clothing next to some lockdown areas after a new case of COVID-19 was detected in Shanghai, March 14, 2022. (Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

WHO also did not recommend members of the public wearing masks for months to protect against COVID-19.

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

Ghebreyesus vocally criticizes rich countries for hoarding limited supplies of COVID-19 vaccine, says world is on the brink of ‘catastrophic moral failure’ for failing to share shots with poorer countries I warned you.

Most recently, the WHO has struggled to investigate the origin of the coronavirus, a challenging scientific endeavour, and politically controversial.

After a weeks-long visit to China, the WHO will release a report in 2021, concluding that COVID-19 most likely jumped from animals to humans, and ruled out the possibility that it originated in the laboratory. It was dismissed as “very unlikely.”

People practice social distancing in the white circles of Domino Park during the Covid-19 pandemic on May 17, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Johannes Eisele / AFP)

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.

A panel commissioned by the WHO to review its performance has criticized China and other countries for not acting quickly to contain the virus, citing the organization’s limited finances and the ability to force countries to act. He said he was constrained by both things he couldn’t do.

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