Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the increasing COVID-19 crisis a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on January 30, 2020, there have been over 765 million confirmed cases and almost seven million deaths reported worldwide. . .
That’s right – COVID-19 is no longer a PHEIC. The announcement came just days before the US’ COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) expires on May 11 – a date that was decided long before WHO’s announcement took the spotlight (2). The pandemic is still very much a global health threat, Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns, but the announcement means that countries can now shift from dealing with COVID-19 as an emergency to managing it like other infectious diseases.
“This virus is here to stay. It is still killing and it’s still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths,” he said (1). “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.”
Speaking with ID Transmission on the matter, Brad Hutton, Public Health Consultant at Hutton Health Consulting, echoed this sentiment: “It is important to acknowledge that, while the world is experiencing much lower levels of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus is ever present, always evolving, and still causing an unacceptable level of severe illness and death.”
Hutton continues, “COVID-19 response activities should be integrated into existing respiratory virus surveillance, prevention, and control efforts. During this interpandemic period, governments and private sector organizations all need to redouble efforts to improve readiness for the next infectious disease threat, and to learn from the experience of the last three years.”