London May 5 2023: COVID-19 no longer represents a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said on Friday, a major step towards the end of the pandemic that has killed more than 6.9 million people, disrupted the global economy and ravaged communities.
"Yesterday, the Emergency Committee met for the 15th time and recommended to me that I declare an end to the public health emergency of international concern. I've accepted that advice. It's therefore with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The WHO's emergency committee first declared that COVID represented its highest level of alert more than three years ago, on Jan. 30 2020. The status helps focus international attention on a health threat, as well as bolstering collaboration on vaccines and treatments.
Lifting it is a sign of the progress the world has made in these areas, but COVID-19 is here to stay, the WHO has said, even if it no longer represents an emergency.
The death rate has slowed from a peak of more than 100,000 people per week in January 2021 to just over 3,500 in the week to April 24, according to WHO data.
"However, that does not mean COVID-19 is over as a global health threat," said Ghebreyesus.
Last year, U.S. President Joe Biden said the pandemic was over. Like a number of other countries, the world's biggest economy has begun dismantling its domestic state of emergency for COVID, meaning it will stop paying for things like vaccines.