WHO Declares End to Global Covid-19 Emergency, But Warns of New Variants

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The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the conclusion of the global public health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This decision comes as a result of the downward trend in the pandemic, with increasing population immunity through vaccination and infection, leading to a decline in deaths, according to the WHO.

Covid-19 no longer a global public health emergency

During a news conference in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that the spread of Covid-19 is no longer considered a global public health emergency. He emphasized the decreasing mortality rate, the easing pressure on health systems, and the ability of most countries to return to pre-pandemic life due to positive trends.

Covid-19 death toll and ongoing risks

Since the WHO first declared the global public health emergency on January 30, 2020, nearly 7 million people have died from the virus worldwide, as per the official data of the organization. Tedros mentioned that the actual death toll is estimated to be at least 20 million. While acknowledging the progress made, he highlighted the ongoing risks, including the potential emergence of new variants that could lead to another surge in cases.

Transitioning from emergency response to managing Covid-19

While warning against complacency, Tedros urged countries to shift their approach from emergency response to managing Covid-19 like other infectious diseases. He emphasized the need to maintain the systems built to combat the virus and cautioned against dismantling them prematurely. Tedros also acknowledged the wide-ranging impact of the pandemic, not only in terms of public health but also its severe economic and social consequences.

In December 2019, Covid-19 was first observed in Wuhan, China, when patients experienced pneumonia symptoms of unknown origin. The virus quickly spread worldwide in early 2020, leading to unprecedented travel restrictions and border closures as countries attempted to contain its spread. The impact of the virus was devastating, particularly affecting the elderly and vulnerable populations, overwhelming healthcare systems with limited capacity and supplies.

The measures taken by national governments to mitigate the effects of the pandemic included widespread shutdowns of public life, resulting in a severe economic downturn and social disruption. The long-term consequences of these actions are expected to be felt for years to come. Tedros highlighted that Covid-19 has been more than just a health crisis, causing significant economic upheaval, erasing trillions from GDP, disrupting travel and trade, and plunging millions into poverty.

Criticism has been directed towards China for its alleged failure to alert the world about the virus in a timely manner, although Beijing denies these allegations. Additionally, the WHO has faced criticism for relying heavily on information from China during the early stages of the pandemic. The origin of the virus remains a contested mystery, with ongoing debates among scientists, government officials, and the general public regarding whether it originated from an infected animal or a lab leak in China.

The U.S. intelligence community holds differing assessments on the origins of Covid-19. The Chinese government has been criticized by the U.S. government, allied nations, and the WHO for not providing transparent access to data that could help determine the true source of the pandemic.

Source: ©Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Clinton Global Initiative ; CNBC

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