WHO Declares End of COVID-19 Global Emergency With ‘Pleasure’

By A.J. Plunkett

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the end of the COVID-19 global public health emergency in a statement on May 5 that offered themes of both relief and precaution.

“The WHO Director-General has the pleasure of transmitting the Report of the fifteenth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) pandemic,” held on May 4, according to the WHO statement.

“During the deliberative session, the Committee members highlighted the decreasing trend in COVID-19 deaths, the decline in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2. The Committee’s position has been evolving over the last several months. While acknowledging the remaining uncertainties posted by potential evolution of SARS-CoV-2, they advised that it is time to transition to long-term management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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 (PHEIC),” said the statement, highlighting the paragraph in bold type.

While the national COVID-19 emergency ended April 10 when President Biden signed legislation declaring it over, the official U.S. public health emergency is not over until May 11.

Many of the waivers and flexibilities offered by CMS to help healthcare organizations cope with the resounding impact of the deadly coronavirus will end with the PHE; some initiatives and waivers have been continued.

The worldwide ordeal was more than three years long, with the first case of the novel virus reported in December 2019 in China, and the first case in the United States a month later.

Once an all-encompassing effort by hospitals and other organizations to stem the wave of deaths, COVID-19 has now dropped to the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the most recent CDC data.

As of May 3, there had been more than 765.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including more than 6.9 million deaths, reported to WHO over the course of the pandemic. As of April 30, according to WHO, almost 3.35 billion vaccine doses had been administered worldwide.