New Delhi, May 5
Covid-19, which claimed over 69 lakh lives since its outbreak in January 2020, no longer constitutes a global health emergency with the World Health Organisation on Friday declaring its spread over as a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)”. The WHO had declared Covid-19, caused by the SARS-Cov 2 virus, first reported in China’s Wuhan, a PHEIC on January 30, 2020.
Dip in virus deaths
- Covid was declared a public health emergency on Jan 30, 2020
- It has since claimed 69,21,614 lives; 5.31 lakh in India alone
- WHO decision based on decreasing trend in Covid deaths
Since then, the world has seen 76,52,22,932 confirmed cases, including 69,21,614 deaths. As of April 29, a total of 13,34,46,70,055 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide to protect people. India alone has seen 4.49 crore cases and 5,31,642 deaths.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a much-awaited announcement today, said, “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 system easing. This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before Covid-19. It is, therefore, with great hope that I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency.”
He, however, added that the actual death toll from Covid was at least 20 million.
The WHO chief’s announcement came on the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee’s recommendation to end the emergency status of Covid.
Ghebreyesus said this did not mean Covid was over as a global health threat as last week, it claimed a life every three minutes.
Cautioning nations against letting their guard down, the DG said, “This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it is still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths.”
“What this news means is that it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing Covid alongside other infectious diseases,” Ghebreyesus said.
On the committee’s advice, the WHO has decided to use an IHR (international health regulations) provision never before used to establish a review committee to develop long-term, standing recommendations for countries on how to manage Covid on an ongoing basis.
The emergency committee of the WHO now ceases to exist, but the WHO DG said it could be convened any time should the need arise.
The decision was taken as there is evidence of reducing risk to human health driven mainly by high population-level immunity from infection, vaccination, or both; consistent virulence of currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sub-lineages compared to previously circulating Omicron sub-lineages; and improved clinical case management.
These factors have contributed to a significant global decline in the weekly number of Covid-related deaths, hospitalisations, and admissions to intensive care units.
IHR (2005) defines the PHEIC as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response”.
This definition means a situation that carries implications for public health beyond the affected state’s national border; and may require immediate international action.
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