Finally! With a tweet last May 5, 2023 from the director-general of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the world can (officially) heave a sigh of relief.
He wrote: The Covid-19 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 have accepted that advice. With great hope I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency.”
Though the world has regained some sort of normalcy with the resumption of business, travel, education, and leisure pursuits late last year, there has been no official announcement until now. However, the WHO emphasized that it does not mean that the disease is no longer a global threat.
“Last week (of April), Covid-19 claimed a life every three minutes — and that’s just the deaths we know about,” Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva.
He said the virus — first made a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO on Jan. 30, 2020 — is here to stay. “It is still killing and it is still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths.”
For public health experts who have questioned the timing in light of rising Covid-related infections, the WHO said that the decision “had not been made lightly.”
“For the past year, the WHO-led Emergency Committee had been carefully examining the data, on the right time to lower the alarm. For over 12 months, the pandemic ‘has been on a downward trend,’ with immunity increasing due to the highly effective vaccines developed in record time to fight the disease and infections. Death rates have decreased and the pressure on once overwhelmed health systems has eased,” said the WHO in a statement.
Amid this welcome news, the WHO chief called on citizens and governments of the world to reflect and ponder on the lessons culled from the three-year pandemic — and to commemorate the seven million lives that were cut short because of the virus.
“(This is) a time for deep reflection, with Covid continuing to leave deep scars on our world. These scars must serve as a permanent reminder of the potential for new viruses to emerge with devastating consequences,” the WHO said, admitting that “many mistakes were made, including a lack of coordination, equity, and solidarity, which meant that existing tools and technologies were not best used to combat the virus.”
“We must promise ourselves and our children and grandchildren that we will never make those mistakes again,” Ghebreyesus said. “This experience must change us all for the better. It must make us more determined to fulfil the vision that nations had when they founded the WHO in 1948: the highest possible standard of health, for all people.”
With this official announcement from the WHO, the world has now emerged after a dark and long journey in a tunnel. Now, there is light and hope. And we appreciate life more deeply, especially as we have witnessed the sacrifices of our doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, and frontliners.
While this is a time for celebration and joy, it is also an opportune moment for our country to rebuild on all fronts and implement reforms. We need to urgently have a strong and resilient healthcare system, so that no pandemic in the future could cripple us. With great hope, we will get there!
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