June 18, 2024

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General has determined that COVID-19 “is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).”

The announcement comes more than three years after WHO declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a global health emergency.

The WHO-led COVID-19 Emergency Committee met on 4 May 2023. Acknowledging that uncertainties remain around potential evolution of the virus, the Committee advised that “it is time to transition to long-term management of the COVID-19 pandemic.” On 5 May, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that he concurs with the Committee’s advice, lifting COVID-19’s PHEIC status.

As WHO works to transition to the long-term management of the virus alongside other infectious diseases, the WHO Director-General has issued temporary recommendations for States parties to follow. Ghebreyesus encourages countries to:

  • Sustain the national capacity gains and prepare for future events;
  • Integrate COVID-19 vaccination into life course vaccination programmes;
  • Bring together information from diverse respiratory pathogen surveillance data sources to allow for a comprehensive situational awareness;
  • Prepare for medical countermeasures to be authorized within national regulatory frameworks to ensure long-term availability and supply;
  • Continue to work with communities and their leaders to achieve strong, resilient, and inclusive risk communications and community engagement and infodemic management programmes;
  • Continue to lift COVID-19 international travel-related health measures; and
  • Continue to support research to improve vaccines.

According to WHO’s Coronavirus Dashboard, as of 10 May 2023, the cumulative COVID-19 cases worldwide approach 766 million. Nearly 7 million deaths from the disease have been reported.

In a statement, Ghebreyesus noted that for over 12 months the pandemic “has been on a downward trend.” Immunity has increased, death rates have dropped, and the pressure on health systems has eased, he said.

At the same time, COVID-19 has exposed “political fault lines” within and between countries, eroded trust between people and governments, and laid bare “searing inequalities,” Ghebreyesus underscored, acknowledging the severe social and economic disruptions caused by the pandemic. Therefore, he cautioned countries against letting down their guard, dismantling the systems they had built, or sending the message to their people that “COVID-19 is nothing to worry about.”