The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Friday announced that COVID-19 will no longer be categorized as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
This decision was made following a recommendation from the WHO Emergency Committee for COVID-19, which met every three months since the PHEIC was declared in early 2020.
The lifting of official PHEIC status is a sign of the progress made in the past year, getting most countries to a solid baseline of coverage, including with support from COVAX which has focused efforts on lower-income countries.
Global coverage with a primary series (two doses) of COVID-19 vaccine stands at 64% on average, and at 55% on average in the 92 lowest-income countries (compared to 28% at the beginning of 2022).
On average, the majority of healthcare workers and older adults across the world – among those at greatest risk – are protected with two doses, and are starting to receive boosters. The countries furthest behind have made remarkable progress.
However, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also noted that this news does not mean COVID-19 is “over as a global health threat.” Several PHEICs have not been related to pandemics, and several sustained epidemics or “pandemics” have not been assigned PHEIC status.
The WHO Director-General also stressed that the world must remain vigilant, as the virus continues to evolve. He urged countries to continue to monitor the situation closely, and to be prepared to take action if needed.
“The lifting of PHEIC status is a positive step, but it is important to remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. We must continue to take precautions to protect ourselves and our communities, and to be prepared for future waves of the virus”, Dr. Tedros warned.