Covid-19, the end of a nightmare: Covid global health emergency is over, WHO says, but we cannot drop our guard yet.

The Covid-19 pandemic has officially come to an end, Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, announced last week, the same person who announced the start of the pandemic on 30th January 2020. “The WHO Committee recommended the end of the state of emergency and I accepted the advice”, said Ghebreyesus last Friday during a press conference in Geneva. “It is therefore with great hope that I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency”.

However, the WHO has specified that “this does not mean Covid is over; the risk remains of new variants emerging which may cause new surges in cases and deaths”. This means we must not drop our guard.

Nearly 800 million people have been infected with the virus and its variants since the beginning of the pandemic. According to data, 7 million people have died, but the WHO thinks the total amount of losses is way higher. Official data in Italy shows over 24 million people got infected and 190,000 were confirmed dead. The virus keeps changing and infecting people, and many are still in ICUs. For this reason, the WHO has warned every country that “the worst thing they can do now is to use this news as a reason to drop the guard or dismantle their emergency systems or to send a message to people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about”.

The impact of a new pandemic crisis would be devastating, not only because of human losses, but because of the severe social upheaval that it would bring. The last three years have drained trillions of dollars from the global GDP, causing an increase in poverty. “We will never make those mistakes again”, said Ghebreyesus, admitting the mistakes made by the Organisation and the whole international community. It is with deep regret that, after 1,200 days of fighting against the disease, the organisation recognized the errors that did not solve the emergency, but made it worse: ”We commit to future generations that we will not go back to the old cycle of panic and neglect that left our world vulnerable but move forward with a shared commitment to meet shared threats with a shared response”.

The decision to lift the state of emergency is supported by the last data about the pandemic. Over the last year the pandemic has showed a downward trend, while health services are no longer under constant pressure as in the past three years. Thanks to new vaccines and new drugs there are fewer infections and deaths, and Covid-19 is now classified as endemic, meaning it is a disease regularly found in a particular place. In addition to this, global pandemic plans has been updated so that more adequate tools can be used to counter similar threats in the future.

The international community showed a positive reaction to the news. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated : “This pandemic has had a heavy toll on people, our society and our economy. But we have successfully overcome it thanks to determined action at global, EU and Member State level, and to the resilience and solidarity of our citizens”. The President also stressed how the European Union managed to take advantage of a tragic event to strengthen the relations between member states: “It has taught us that the EU‘s strength lies in its unity, including when confronted with major health crises. European solidarity, in sharing medical supplies, treating patients or helping repatriate citizens, and in the reconstruction of our economies, helped us to protect our citizens together and overcome the most difficult phases of the pandemic. This pandemic changed the face of the EU, which has become a true European Health Union”.