WHO may soon lift Covid-19 global health emergency status—health expert

A local health expert said there is a possibility that the global health emergency declaration for Covid-19 pandemic will soon be lifted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has started its discussion whether the Covid-19 pandemic still qualifies as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). The WHO declared Covid-19 as PHEIC in January 2020.

The PHEIC will likely be lifted if the three important criteria are to be considered when this was declared, said infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante in a text message on Saturday, Jan. 28.

“Yes, I believe that WHO will lift the public health emergency of international concern if we are to follow also the criteria used when it was declared,” he said.

The first criteria was that “Covid is a serious infection and can cause deaths among individuals,” said Solante.

But “at the moment, it's not causing much serious infections,” he said.

“Mortality is declining compared two to three years ago. Hospitalization rate is going down,” he added.

The second criteria was the virus’ potential to cross borders, said Solante.

“We know very well that it has been present in most countries and it's not anymore a concern since it's all present in most countries,” he said.

The third criteria was that Covid-19 requires a “coordinated response” among countries, said Solante.

“Almost all countries now have ongoing coordinated response such as testing, vaccination, and use of antiviral agents, and more importantly health protocol implementations,” he noted.

However, the WHO may still consider other aspects for its decision, said Solante.

“There are other factors outside of the above criteria that WHO will also consider extending the public health emergency such as the ongoing surge of cases in China,” he said.

Another possible aspect to consider is the “fear of a new variant of concern which will again be a cause of increase in cases and death is a threat,” said Solante.

“The other reason is the slight increase in deaths reported last week in some countries,” he added.

PH to continue to respond vs Covid-19

If the WHO decides to lift the PHEIC, the Philippines will continue to implement measures against Covid-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

“We shall wait for the announcement of the World Health Organization regarding the global status of Covid-19,” the DOH said in a statement on Saturday.

“Nonetheless, the Department, together with other concerned agencies, will continue employing our protocols and strengthen its surveillance and monitoring efforts to ensure that cases are kept at bay and our response remains efficient even if the status of PHE is lifted by the WHO,” it added.