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Why is COVID No Longer Considered a Global Emergency While it Still Claims One Life Every Three Minutes?

May 11, 2023 World Events & Announcements

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the COVID-19 epidemic will no longer be designated as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) because it has been a global health emergency for more than three years.

Following the recommendation of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Emergency Committee, COVID-19’s PHEIC status was lifted on May 5 by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The (COVID-19) Emergency Committee and WHO have been carefully examining the evidence and debating when it would be appropriate to drop the level of worry over the past year, according to Ghebreyesus.

He claimed that after the emergency committee’s fifteenth meeting, it was suggested that he proclaim COVID no longer to be considered a PHEIC. He replied, “I’ve taken that counsel.”

The WHO director continued, “It is therefore with great hope that I designate COVID-19 to be a global health emergency.”

But what does the proclamation actually entail, and how does this affect how nations like the Philippines are responding to the pandemic?

COVID is still active.

Despite WHO’s declaration that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, Ghebreyesus emphasized that the disease’s threat to global health is still very much present.

“Last week, COVID-19 took a life every three minutes, and those are just the fatalities that we are aware of. Thousands of individuals are battling for their lives in intensive care units all across the world right now, he said.

And millions more people still have to deal with the miserable consequences of the post-COVID-19 state. This virus will always be around. Both the killing and the transforming continue. The possibility of new variations developing and leading to fresh spikes in cases and fatalities still exists,” he added.

According to WHO data, there were 765,222,932 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide as of May 3. At least 6,921,614 of these were deadly.

The Department of Health (DOH) in the Philippines said that as of May 7, there were 4,102,788 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 66,453 confirmed deaths nationwide.

According to Ghebreyesus, the decision to remove COVID-19 from the PHEIC list was made in light of the declining trend in COVID-19 fatalities, the drop in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and ICU admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“I want to be clear that this is not a hasty choice. The decision was carefully thought through over a period of time, prepared for, and reached after meticulous data analysis, according to the WHO director general.
“If COVID-19 puts our world in danger again, I will not hesitate to call another emergency committee,” he continued.

The IHR Emergency Committee noted that the COVID-19 pandemic may be in a “transition point” during a meeting on January 27 but maintained its PHEIC status.

According to the Committee, the PHEIC was then “required to maintain global attention to COVID-19, the potential negative consequences that could arise if the PHEIC was terminated, and how to transition in a safe manner.”

Pandemic and PHEIC: Not the same.

Why is the pandemic still ongoing even when the COVID-19 PHEIC status has ended?

WHO earlier said that because to COVID-19, we are experiencing both a pandemic and a PHEIC crisis. However, the meanings of the PHEIC and the word “pandemic” are completely unlike.

The PHEIC is the WHO’s highest degree of alarm under the IHR, and it initiates a planned, global reaction. The International Health Regulations (IHR) describe a PHEIC as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other [countries] through the international spread of disease.”

As described by the WHO, a situation classified as a PHEIC status means that it:
• entails consequences for public health outside the borders of the affected State;
• is significant, sudden, unusual, or unexpected;
• may call for quick international intervention

According to Maria Van Kherkove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, “the idea of declaring a PHEIC… is to coordinate that immediate action before the event becomes even bigger and possibly develops into a pandemic.”

A pandemic is generally understood to be an outbreak of a disease, typically brought on by a novel virus or bacteria, that spreads swiftly and has an impact on the entire world’s population.

“The emergency is over, but COVID continues. There will be other rounds of infection since the virus is evolving. We must keep working to stop infections, serious illnesses, [long COVID], and fatalities. Maintain momentum across all response pillars. “Watchfulness,” Kherkove urged.

Because this virus is here to stay, she continued, “we may be in a pandemic for quite some time—which means we have to take measured actions.”

What happens now?
Following the current proclamation, the emergency committee members stressed the evolving nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, emphasizing that it is now necessary to switch to long-term COVID-19 pandemic management.

“This virus will remain. Both the killing and the transforming continue. According to Ghebreyesus, there is still a chance that new variations will develop and produce additional spikes in cases and fatalities.

“The worst thing any country could do right 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,” he said.

According to the latest information, it is now time for nations to switch from emergency mode to managing COVID-19 together with other infectious diseases.

Ghebreyesus declared that he had chosen to employ an IHR provision to set up a review group that would produce long-term, permanent recommendations for nations on how to administer COVID-19 on an ongoing basis.

In addition, WHO provided a set of provisional suggestions, including:
• integrating COVID-19 vaccination into regular immunization programs;
• gathering information from various respiratory pathogen surveillance data to allow higher awareness; sustaining countries’ national capacity gains and preparing for future events to
prevent the occurrence of a cycle of panic and neglect;
• preparing for medical countermeasures and imposing national regulatory frameworks to ensure long-term availability and supply; working with communities and taking the initiative.
• removing COVID-19 foreign travel health restrictions while taking risk assessment findings into account;
• promoting COVID-19-related research to enhance vaccines, comprehend the effects of the post-COVID-19 state, and track the development of SARS-CoV-2

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