May 5, 2023 – The World Health Organization (WHO) is making it official — announcing the end of the global health emergency more than 3 years into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not much is expected to change in a realistic sense, and the declaration doesn’t mean COVID is no longer with us.
But WHO calling an end to its “public health emergency of international concern” reflects declining case numbers, fewer hospitalizations, and greater immunity.
We’ve come a long way since the agency first declared COVID an emergency on Jan. 30, 2020, and a pandemic on March 11 that same year. Before you celebrate, however, take a moment to reflect on the global impact of COVID. The WHO says more than 765 million cases of COVID have been reported worldwide, including nearly 7 million deaths.
“But we know the [death] toll is several times higher, at least 20 million,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said during a media briefing today. “Last week, COVID-19 claimed a life every 3 minutes.”
“What this news means is that it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing COVID-19 alongside other infectious diseases,” he said.
The U.S. government is expected to follow suit and allow its public health emergency to expire on May 11. In a practical sense, that will likely mean an end to cost-free home COVID test kits and complete insurance coverage for laboratory testing and other public health measures.