On May 5, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which began on January 30, 2020.
The announcement was made by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday, signaling a transition from emergency mode to managing COVID-19 alongside other infectious diseases. Alongside the WHO announcement, the Public Health Emergency (PHE) in the U.S. is officially prospected to end on May 11, 2023.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement explaining that while most tools such as vaccines, treatments, and testing will still be available, the CDC’s ability to collect and share certain data will change. The CDC is updating its guidance to align with these data changes.
What happens to COVID-19?
The WHO Director-General stated, “Last week, COVID-19 claimed a life every three minutes—and that’s just the deaths we know about, and millions more continue to live with the debilitating effects of post-COVID-19 conditions. This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it’s still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths.”
To combat the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, experts are calling for greater pandemic preparedness, such as reauthorizing the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which is a U.S. law enacted in 2006 and reauthorized in 2013 that funds various efforts to improve the nation’s preparedness for public health emergencies such as pandemics, natural disasters, and bioterrorism. Renewing the law, or reauthorizing PAHPA, is necessary to continue these efforts and ensure preparedness for future health emergencies.
The likelihood of a future pandemic
In his opening remarks of the Senate HELP committee hearing, Senator Bernie Sanders stated, “What scientists are telling us is that there is a reasonable chance that—God forbid—a pandemic is deadly as COVID-19 could occur in 10 years.”
CNN reported that COVID experts agree that there is a 10-20% chance of the emergence of an Omicron-style variant in the next two years, which could potentially lead to another global health crisis.
The past year and a half has been marked by unprecedented challenges as the world has struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19. While progress has been made in developing vaccines and treatments, the fight against the virus is far from over. The WHO’s declaration of the end of the PHEIC is a reminder that we must remain vigilant and continue to take steps to prepare for future health emergencies.
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