HAP Blog

WHO Declares End of COVID-19 Global Health Emergency

Focus shifts to long-term management of the virus

May 05, 2023

In a “moment of celebration,” the World Health Organization (WHO) today declared the end of the COVID-19 global health emergency, urging nations to shift their focus to the long-term management of the virus.

WHO leaders cited COVID-19’s downward trend—with cases and hospitalizations declining worldwide—as the rationale to end the global emergency. The transition is not a reason to let our guard down, but it marks a new phase in the pandemic response. It also arrives less than a week before the formal end of the COVID-19 public health emergency in the U.S.

“It is therefore with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. “However, that does not mean COVID-19 is over as a global health threat.”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • A new framework:  The WHO has published a report to guide countries through the long-term management of the virus alongside other public health challenges.
  • Rationale:   While COVID-19 continues to spread and evolve, “it is no longer an unusual or unexpected event.” Population immunity has led to the downward trend in cases and hospitalizations.
  • Next steps:  The WHO recommends maintaining capacity and awareness for future events; integration of COVID-19 vaccination into broader vaccine efforts; continued lifting of COVID-19-related travel measures; and ongoing research to improve vaccines and treatment.
  • Still a threat:  Globally, COVID-19 is responsible for one death every three minutes. In the U.S., COVID-19 was the fourth leading cause of death during 2022, the CDC reported this week. 
  • Quotable:  “This virus is here to stay,” said Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It’s still killing, and it’s still changing.”

Adhanom Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 has been more than a health crisis, erasing trillions from the gross domestic product, “disrupting travel and trade, shattering business, and plunging millions into poverty.”

“COVID has changed our world, and it has changed us,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “That’s the way it should be. If we all go back to how things were before COVID-19, we will have failed to learn our lessons, and we will have failed future generations.”

HAP will continue to provide updates to members and the general public about the latest COVID-19 public health developments.

The WHO press briefing, as well as a summary of the WHO’s committee meeting, is available online.

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