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World Health Organization Removes COVID-19 Pandemic's Health Emergency Status

The virus is now considered a 'public health emergency of international concern'

The World Health Organization has reclassified COVID-19 just over three years after calling the virus’s outbreak a pandemic.

During the fifteenth meeting of the agency’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, COVID-19 was declared to no longer meet the classifications of a pandemic due to decreasing rates of death and hospitalizations. The committee also noted the increased levels of population immunity. 

The WHO Director-General concurs with the advice offered by the Committee regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He determines that COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” according to a statement published by the WHO on May 5

“It is with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his address. 

The WHO first labeled the global outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic in March of 2020. At the time, the agency expressed deep concern about “the alarming levels of spread and severity” as well as “the alarming levels of inaction.”

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death,” said the Director-General in a statement released on March 11. “We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus… And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.”

According to the WHO, there have been 765,222,932 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world since the virus’s initial outbreak. As of May 3, 6,921,614 global death have been attributed to COVID-19 – roughly 0.9% of all international cases. 

Dr. Tedros, however, said he believes COVID-19 data recorded by his agency is not accurate and that “the true toll is several times higher, at least 20 million,” per The New York Times. 

COVID-19 deaths declined by 5.3% between 2021 and 2022. Last year, COVID-19 was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 186,700 deaths were attributed to COVID-19 while 218,100 were caused by unintentional injury, 607,800 were cancer-related, and 699,700 were due to heart disease.

While speaking on May 5, Tedros said that COVID-19 caused “severe social upheaval.” He noted the damage regulations introduced because of what the pandemic did to economies, schools, and international travel.

“COVID-19 exposed and exacerbated political fault-lines within and between nations,” he said. “It has eroded trust between people, governments and institutions fueled by a torrent of myths and misinformation. It has laid bare the searing inequalities of our world, with the poorest and most vulnerable communities the hardest hit and the last to receive access to vaccines and other tools.”

The WHO’s reclassification comes just over three weeks after the United States federal government ended its COVID-19 national emergency order. President Joe Biden said the pandemic was over during an interview in September of 2022.

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