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WHO declares end to Covid global health emergency

The World Health Organization first issued the emergency declaration in January 2020.
Yair Badash disinfects an aircraft between flights at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel,
Yair Badash disinfects an aircraft between flights at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2020. David Silverman / Getty Images file

Covid is no longer a global public health emergency, the World Health Organization said Friday. The WHO issued the declaration more than three years ago, on Jan. 30, 2020.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he made the decision following a recommendation from the WHO’s emergency committee, which met on Thursday for the 15th time.

"I have accepted that advice," Tedros said. "It is therefore with great hope that I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency."

The WHO's designation of a "public health emergency of international concern" is reserved for the most serious disease outbreaks. The organization has assigned the label to seven outbreaks since 2007: monkeypox, Covid, Zika, H1N1 flu, polio and Ebola (which has twice been designated an emergency).

Globally, Covid deaths have fallen steadily over the last three months, from more than 41,000 weekly deaths at the start of January to around 3,500 on April 24, according to WHO data.

“For more than a year, the pandemic has been on a downward trend, with population immunity increasing from vaccination and infection, mortality decreasing and the pressure on health systems easing. This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before Covid-19,” Tedros said on Friday.

However, he noted that worldwide, someone died of Covid every three minutes last week — a figure that only includes reported deaths.

“The worst thing any country could do now is to use this news as a reason to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about,” Tedros said.

The U.S. is set to end its Covid public health emergency on Thursday. The designation has been in place since January 2020. President Joe Biden signed a resolution into law last month ending the country's Covid national emergency.

Weekly deaths in the U.S. have reached similar levels to those recorded in March 2020. The country is seeing around 158 daily deaths, on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"What this news means is that it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing Covid-19 alongside other infectious diseases," Tedros said on Friday.