The World Health Organization has lifted the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for COVID-19.
In a press conference on Friday, director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “COVID-19 has been so much more than a health crisis, disrupting economies, travel, shattering businesses and plunging millions into poverty.”
He went on to state that for more than a year the pandemic has been on a downward trend and “this trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19.”
Then he made the pronouncement: “Therefore, with great hope, I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency.”
He also said: “The painful lessons we have learned cannot go to waste. We owe it to those we have lost to liberate those investments, to build on those capacities … to learn from those lessons and make sure that suffering leads to lasting change.”
The end of the emergency declaration comes more than three years after Tedreos announced it on Jan. 30, 2020. At the time, there were fewer than 10,000 cases of the virus, most of them in China.
Since then, nearly seven million people have died from the disease globally, including more than 1 million in the United States alone.
During that time, the landscape has changed dramatically. While new variants may still pose a threat, vaccines and boosters have provided have helped reduce the number of deaths.
WHO has issued the public health emergency declaration seven times since 2005. The designation triggers a series of rules that guide response to threatening disease outbreaks, including the fast-tracking of tests and medicines.
The declaration for COVID-19 was the first time the WHO announced an international health emergency since an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019.