The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that Covid-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency, marking a symbolic end to the pandemic that caused once-unthinkable lockdowns, upended economies worldwide, and led to at least 7 million deaths globally.
The UN health agency said that while the emergency phase was over, the pandemic was not yet over, as recent spikes in cases in Southeast Asia and the Middle East indicated. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared Covid-19 as a global health emergency in 2020, expressing concerns over the virus spreading in countries with weak health systems.
Although the pandemic has caused an estimated 764 million cases worldwide, and about 5 billion people have received at least one vaccine dose, thousands still die from the virus every week. The public health emergency declaration in the US regarding Covid-19 is set to expire on May 11, ending measures to support the pandemic response, including vaccine mandates.
Despite WHO’s decision to lower its highest level of alert, the agency has faltered repeatedly as the coronavirus unfolded, and some countries previously judged to be the best-prepared for a pandemic, such as the US and Britain, suffered the worst Covid-19 death tolls.