COVID pandemic is no longer an emergency: WHO

Context: As per the World Health Organization, COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global health emergency.

What it means when a disease is an emergency

Announcing a disease as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) is a significant decision that the World Health Organization (WHO) takes after thorough analysis of various factors. The following are some of the key points that WHO considers before declaring a disease as a PHEIC:

  1. Potential to spread: The WHO assesses whether the disease has the potential to spread rapidly beyond the affected region or country, causing a global outbreak.
  2. Severity: The WHO evaluates the severity of the disease, including its mortality rate and its impact on people’s health.
  3. International impact: The WHO considers the potential impact of the disease on the international community, including its impact on travel and trade.
  4. Social and economic impact: The WHO also considers the social and economic impact of the disease, including its impact on daily life and the ability of countries to respond.
  5. Urgency: The WHO assesses the urgency of the situation, including the need for immediate action to contain the disease and prevent its spread.
  6. Expert recommendations: The WHO consults with its expert committees to gather advice and recommendations on whether to declare a PHEIC.

The WHO has analyzed all these factors, it may declare a disease as a PHEIC. This announcement is a critical step in mobilizing resources and coordinating a global response to the disease. The WHO will provide guidance and recommendations to countries on how to respond to the disease, including measures to contain its spread, protect public health, and provide medical care to those who need it. The declaration of a PHEIC may also lead to increased funding and resources for research and development of treatments and vaccines.

What is the status now

As mentioned, covid-19 is no longer an emergency. However, the officials said that even though the emergency phase was over, the pandemic has not ended. They pointed to the recent spikes in cases in Southeast Asia and West Asia to support their case.

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SARS-CoV-2 Virus:

  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a highly contagious viral illness caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). 
  • SARS-CoV-2 is a novel beta coronavirus belonging to the same subgenus as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
    • It was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and then caused a global pandemic leading to the disease COVID-19.
  • Coronaviruses (CoVs) are positive-stranded RNA viruses with a crown-like appearance due to the presence of spike glycoproteins on the envelope.
  • Like other RNA viruses, SARS-CoV-2, while adapting to their new human hosts, is prone to genetic evolution with the development of mutations over time, resulting in mutant variants that may have different characteristics than its ancestral strains.
  • Although the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is currently unknown, it is widely postulated to have originated from an animal, implicating a zoonotic transmission. 

Transmission: Via exposure to respiratory droplets carrying the infectious virus from close contact or droplet transmission from presymptomatic, asymptomatic, or symptomatic individuals harbouring the virus. 

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