WHO says COVID no longer constitutes a 'global emergency'

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), thousands die of COVID weekly, and the virus plunged millions into poverty.

WHO says COVID no longer constitutes a 'global emergency'
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It's official: COVID no longer qualifies as a "global emergency," according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"It's with great hope that I declare COVID over as a global health emergency," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday, with most countries returning to pre-COVID normalcy.

On Thursday, Tedros convened with experts who decided to lower its highest alert level the following day. "That does not mean COVID is over as a global health threat," he warned, adding he would consult experts to reassess the situation should COVID "put our world in peril."

For three years, global responses to 'flattening the curve' upended economies, disrupted supply chains and revealed nagging issues with "ill-prepared" healthcare systems. The Canadian Press said the respiratory virus killed at least 7 million people worldwide.

According to WHO, while thousands die of COVID weekly, government responses to the virus plunged millions into poverty.

"COVID has changed our world, and it has changed us," said the WHO Director-General, who declared COVID an international crisis on January 30, 2020.

The U.N. health agency estimated 764 million cases globally and approximately 5 billion people with at least one COVID jab. He frequently criticized wealthy countries for hoarding COVID vaccines at a time he claimed the world was on the brink of a "catastrophic moral failure."

According to an Auditor report published last December, Health Canada had a large vaccine surplus, leading to $1 billion in vaccine wastage before the country could use them domestically or donate them abroad. After the fact, they also purchased more doses from Pfizer and Moderna, further contributing to the vaccine oversupply.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan explained the demand in developing nations was less than they had hoped. Auditor General Karen Hogan said another 21.7 million doses would expire if they failed to identify countries to take them.

"That market saturated, resulting in the Canadian government not being as successful as they could, but in my view, it was a prudent approach," said Hogan.

The federal government previously claimed it donated 50 million doses during the pandemic, but only 15.3 million went overseas. They also aided developing countries in paying for 90 million more doses.

"One of the things that we're focused on now is reinforcing the health systems within those nations. So if a pandemic were to come back, we would be able to distribute vaccines equitably," said Sajjan.

On Friday, Tedros acknowledged COVID posed a declining threat for the better part of a year, but he called recent case spikes in Southeast Asia and the Middle East a cause for concern. 

The global health bureaucracy has yet to identify the origins of the respiratory virus, which they conclude "is a challenging scientific endeavour that has also become politically fraught."

In 2021, the WHO reported that COVID originated from animals and "jumped" into humans. They vehemently dismissed the possibility that it came from a lab, only to backtrack the following year.

In 2022, the WHO said it missed "key pieces of data" and ultimately said it was premature to rule out that COVID originated in a lab.

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