The World Health Organisation said on Friday that Covid-19 pandemic was no longer considered a public health emergency of international concern.
The Director-General, WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, announced this in Geneva, while also lifting the highest alert level that can be imposed in the event of a threat, which has been in place for more than three years.
This came after more than three years of declaring the outbreak to be a Public health emergency of international concern in January 2020, about six weeks before characterising it as a pandemic.
WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee discussed the pandemic at its 15th meeting on Covid-19 and decided that the PHEIC declaration should come to an end.
The statement read in part, “The committee’s position has been evolving over the last several months. While acknowledging the remaining uncertainties posted by potential evolution of SARS-CoV-2, they advised that it is time to transition to long-term management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The WHO DG concurs with the advice offered by the committee regarding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. He determines that Covid-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a PHEIC.
“The WHO DG considered the advice provided by the committee regarding the proposed temporary recommendations and issued a statement. The WHO Director-General will convene an IHR Review Committee to advise on standing recommendations for the long-term management of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, taking into account the 2023-2025 COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.”
It noted that during the transition, states parties were advised to continue following the issued temporary recommendations.
It quoted the DG as appreciating the members and the advisors of the committee for their engagement and advice during the last three years.
The global health body said while the global risk assessment remained high, there was evidence of reducing risks to human health driven mainly by high population-level immunity from infection, vaccination, or both; consistent virulence of currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sub-lineages compared to previously circulating Omicron sub-lineages; and improved clinical case management.
It added, “These factors have contributed to a significant global decline in the weekly number of Covid-19 related deaths, hospitalisation and admissions to intensive care units since the beginning of the pandemic. While SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, the currently circulating variants do not appear to be associated with increased severity.
“WHO provided updates on the status of global vaccination and considerations of implications for the potential termination of a PHEIC. The committee was informed that, globally, 13.3 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered.”
It noted that currently, 89 per cent of health workers and 82 per cent of adults over 60 years had completed the primary series (the initial one or two doses recommended as per the vaccine schedule), although coverage in priority groups varied in different regions.
It added that states would still be able to access vaccines and diagnostics, provided the manufacturers continue production.
It noted that COVAX would also continue to provide funded doses and delivery support throughout 2023 in line with demand.