WHO: Covid-19 Remains a Global Emergency, Urges Countries to Prepare for Future Crises

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that Covid-19 remains a public health emergency, three years after the virus was first declared a global health emergency. The WHO Emergency Committee advised that the pandemic is at a “transition point,” with a rising number of deaths, insufficient vaccine uptake in low- and middle-income countries, and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the virus.[0]

The WHO has advised countries to continue vaccinating people and incorporate Covid-19 vaccines into routine care, improve disease surveillance, maintain a strong health care system, continue to fight misinformation, and adjust international travel measures based on risk assessment.[1]

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) released two new reports on Monday that warned “all countries remain dangerously unprepared for future outbreaks.”[2] Jagan Chapagain, secretary general of the IFRC, said the Covid-19 pandemic should be “a wake-up call” for the global community to prepare now for the next health crisis.[2]

The IFRC report recommended countries review their legislation to ensure it is in line with their pandemic preparedness plans by the end of 2023 and adopt a new treaty and revised international health regulations by next year.[3] It also suggested countries increase domestic health finance by 1 percent of their gross domestic product and global health finance by at least $15 billion per year.[3]

The Director-General of the WHO agrees with the recommendations provided by the Committee about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and has determined that it still meets the criteria for being considered a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The Director-General recognizes the importance of maintaining global attention to COVID-19 and has asked countries to develop alternative mechanisms to do so after the PHEIC is terminated.[4]

More than 6.8 million people have died from Covid-19 worldwide since the pandemic began in early 2020, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.[5] The WHO has urged countries to prepare now for future health crises and disasters, noting that many of the disasters are propelled by climate change. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned that countries should begin to prepare for the future, as the world is becoming increasingly dangerous, not only due to disease outbreaks but also from the impacts of climate change and severe weather.

0. “FIRST READING: Why nobody trusts the government anymore because of COVID” National Post, 30 Jan. 2023, https://nationalpost.com/opinion/trust-government-covid-19-canada

1. “COVID-19 still a global health emergency, says WHO” POLITICO Europe, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/covid-19-coronavirus-still-a-global-health-emergency-says-who-tedros-ghebreyesus/

2. “WHO says Covid-19 remains a global health emergency, but pandemic is at a ‘transition point'” CNN, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/30/health/who-covid-public-health-emergency/index.html

3. “World ‘dangerously unprepared’ for next pandemic, Red Cross warns” Al Jazeera English, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/30/world-dangerously-unprepared-for-next-pandemic-ifrc

4. “Statement on the fourteenth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding …” World Health Organization, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.who.int/news/item/30-01-2023-statement-on-the-fourteenth-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)-pandemic

5. “Is COVID still a global health emergency? WHO will decide Friday” Toronto Star, 25 Jan. 2023, https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2023/01/25/is-covid-still-a-global-health-emergency-who-will-decide-friday.html