On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the COVID-19 pandemic would no longer be classified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The decision was made during the 15th meeting of the WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, where WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed that the PHEIC declaration should be ended.
Tedros stated that the pandemic has shown a downward trend for over a year, which has allowed many countries to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. The emergency committee recommended that Tedros declare an end to the PHEIC, and he accepted their advice.
The WHO first declared COVID-19 a PHEIC on January 30, 2020, and has continued to apply the label at meetings held every three months. In the early stages of the pandemic, countries around the world rushed to implement health guidelines and restrictions, limiting people-to-people interactions to slow the spread of the virus. The pandemic has caused significant disruptions to health systems and economies, plunging millions into poverty.
After three years of tireless efforts to contain the pandemic, a large part of the global population has developed immunity to the virus through vaccination or prior infections. The virus has also evolved into different strains that are more contagious yet less severe. As a result, many countries, including the United States, have recently lifted their domestic states of emergency, and international travel has resumed gradually.
Since the emergence of the pandemic, there have been over 765 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 7 million deaths from the contagious respiratory disease, according to the WHO. The first COVID-19 case was reported in Wuhan, China, in January 2020. China recently downgraded the management of the disease from Class A to Class B and declared a major and decisive victory in COVID-19 prevention and control in February 2023.