On the Site:

CORONAVIRUS

WHO downgrades COVID pandemic, says it’s no longer emergency

May 5, 2023, 8:55 AM

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks to jour...

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks to journalists during a press conference about the Global WHO on World Health Day and the 75th anniversary at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday April 6, 2023. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization said Friday that COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency, marking a symbolic end to the devastating coronavirus pandemic that triggered once-unthinkable lockdowns, upended economies and killed at least 7 million people worldwide.

WHO first declared COVID-19 to be an emergency more than three years ago. The U.N. health agency’s officials said that even though the emergency phase was over, the pandemic hasn’t come to an end, noting recent spikes in cases in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

WHO says that thousands of people are dying from the virus every week, and millions of others report that they are still suffering from debilitating, long-term effects from the disease.

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

“That does not mean COVID-19 is over as a global health threat,” he said, adding he wouldn’t hesitate to reconvene experts to reassess the situation should COVID-19 “put our world in peril.”

Tedros said the pandemic had been on a downward trend for more than a year, acknowledging that most countries have already returned to life before COVID-19.

He bemoaned the damage that COVID-19 had done to the global community, saying the pandemic had shattered businesses, exacerbated political divisions, led to the spread of misinformation and plunged millions into poverty. Tedros also noted that there were likely at least 20 million COVID-19 deaths, far more than the officially reported 7 million.

“COVID has changed our world and it has changed us,” he said, warning that the risk of new variants still remained.

Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, said it was incumbent on heads of states and other leaders to decide on how future health threats should be faced, given the numerous problems that crippled the world’s response to COVID-19. Countries are negotiating a pandemic treaty that some hope may spell out how future disease threats will be faced — but it’s unlikely any such treaty would be legally binding.

When the U.N. health agency first declared the coronavirus to be an international crisis on Jan. 30, 2020, it hadn’t yet been named COVID-19 and there were no major outbreaks beyond China.

More than three years later, the virus has caused an estimated 764 million cases globally and about 5 billion people have received at least one dose of vaccine.

In the U.S., the public health emergency declaration made regarding COVID-19 is set to expire on May 11, when wide-ranging measures to support the pandemic response, including vaccine mandates, will end. Many other countries, including Germany, France and Britain, dropped many of their provisions against the pandemic last year.

When Tedros declared COVID-19 to be an emergency in 2020, he said his greatest fear was the virus’ potential to spread in countries with weak health systems.

In fact, some of the countries that suffered the worst COVID-19 death tolls were previously judged to be the best-prepared for a pandemic, including the U.S. and Britain. According to WHO data, the number of deaths reported in Africa account for just 3% of the global total.

WHO doesn’t “declare” pandemics, but first used the term to describe the outbreak in March 2020, when the virus had spread to every continent except Antarctica, long after many other scientists had said a pandemic was already underway.

WHO is the only agency mandated to coordinate the world’s response to acute health threats, but the organization faltered repeatedly as the coronavirus unfolded.

In January 2020, WHO publicly applauded China for its supposed speedy and transparent response, even though recordings of private meetings obtained by The Associated Press showed top officials were frustrated at the country’s lack of cooperation.

WHO also recommended against mask-wearing for the public for months, a mistake many health officials say cost lives.

Numerous scientists also slammed WHO’s reluctance to acknowledge that COVID-19 was frequently spread in the air and by people without symptoms, criticizing the agency’s lack of strong guidance to prevent such exposure.

Tedros was a vociferous critic of rich countries who hoarded the limited supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, warning that the world was on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure” by failing to share shots with poor countries.

Most recently, WHO has been struggling to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, a challenging scientific endeavour that has also become politically fraught.

After a weeks-long visit to China, WHO released a report in 2021 concluding that COVID-19 most likely jumped into humans from animals, dismissing the possibility that it originated in a lab as “extremely unlikely.”

But the U.N. agency backtracked the following year, saying “key pieces of data” were still missing and that it was premature to rule out that COVID-19 might have ties to a lab.

Tedros lamented that the catastrophic toll of COVID-19 could have been avoided.

“We have the tools and the technologies to prepare for pandemics better, to detect them earlier, to respond to them faster,” Tedros said, without citing missteps by WHO specifically.

“A lack of (global) solidarity meant that those tools were not used as effectively as they could have been,” he said. “Lives were lost that should not have been. We must promise ourselves and our children and grandchildren that we will never make those mistakes again.”

___

Maria Cheng reported from London.

KSL 5 TV Live

Coronavirus

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 4, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott A...

Associated Press

Supreme Court rejects COVID-19 vaccine appeals from nonprofit founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The Supreme Court has rejected two appeals related to COVID-19 vaccines from Children’s Health Defense, the anti-vaccine nonprofit founded by independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

23 days ago

FILE - Comirnaty, a new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination booster for COVID-19, is displayed at a pharmac...

Jen Christensen, CNN

The FDA tells COVID-19 vaccine makers to update shot to target newest variant

The US Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it had advised the makers of the Covid-19 vaccines to formulate their new shots to be a better match for the JN.1 lineage of the coronavirus.

1 month ago

(FILE) A test dummy getting hit by an air bag during a crash test....

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Thousands of cars equipped with faulty airbags on Utah roads as automakers issues ‘Do Not Drive’ warnings

Auto manufacturers have recalled over millions of Takata airbags because of their potential to explode and shoot out sharp metal fragments. And there are still thousands of those in cars across Utah.

1 month ago

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 03: Dr. Anthony Fauci, former Director of the National Institute of Allergy a...

Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer

Fauci testifies publicly before House panel on COVID origins, controversies

Dr. Anthony Fauci is facing heated questioning from Republican lawmakers about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

1 month ago

A sign reminding Copper Hills High School students and staff to keep their hands clean during the c...

Lindsay Aerts

Utah school districts working to prioritize what stays when COVID relief money runs dry

Utah's school districts are working to figure out how they will continue to pay for programs propped up by COVID-19 relief funds.

2 months ago

FILE: Former Utah Jazz John Stockton reacts during a 76-70 Wichita State win over the Gonzaga Bulld...

Michael Houck

Former Utah Jazz star John Stockton sues Washington medical director about COVID misinformation policy

Former Utah Jazz superstar John Stockton has filed a federal lawsuit against Washington officials on First Amendment violations, arguing the state's policy of COVID-19 misinformation is unconstitutional.

4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

WHO downgrades COVID pandemic, says it’s no longer emergency