The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) recent proclamation concludes the designation of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)1, signifying a remarkable evolution in our collective fight against the pandemic. WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, based this decision on the recommendations of the WHO’s respective emergency committees. This notable development indicates a transition from emergency response to a period of increased scrutiny and management, incorporating COVID-19 into our enduring public health policies.1
While substantial, the pronouncement should not be misconstrued as eliminating the disease’s threat. It represents a segue to a new period of consistent management, underscoring the necessity for continued alertness, sustained public health interventions, and comprehensive surveillance systems.1 Despite the PHEIC status being rescinded, the virus endures, continuously adapting with the potential to precipitate fresh variants leading to renewed case surges and fatalities.2 It is thus imperative to maintain vigilance and continue concerted efforts to control and alleviate the effects of COVID-19. The downward trajectory of the pandemic over the past year, facilitated by highly efficacious vaccines developed in an unprecedented timeframe, has led to a decrease in mortality rates and a lessening of the burden on previously overstretched health systems.3 The majority of nations have now restored a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, a tribute to our communal resilience and the effectiveness of our collective countermeasures.4
Nevertheless, this critical juncture also serves as an invaluable opportunity for introspection and learning. The pandemic exposed deficiencies in coordination, equity, and solidarity, resulting in suboptimal utilisation of available tools and technologies in our fight against the virus.5 Moving forward, we must pledge to avoid repeating these errors. The pandemic experience must instigate a positive transformation, strengthening our resolve to realise the aspiration outlined at the inception of the WHO in 1948: to attain the highest possible standard of health for all people.
The envisaged trajectory embodies a proactive approach that continues the struggle against COVID-19 and prepares for impending health challenges. This encompasses fortifying health diplomacy; reconceptualising global health funding; capitalising on digital health potential; advancing health workforce development, endorsing multisectoral health initiatives; integrating climate change factors into health policy; mainstreaming mental health; and exploiting precision public health strategies.1,3
Navigating this novel landscape presents a formidable undertaking. Nonetheless, armed with unwavering commitment, global cooperation, and innovative thought, we have the capacity to shape a future that is resilient, equitable, and promotes the health and wellbeing of all.
The authors have no competing interests to declare.
Bashar Haruna Gulumbe | Department of Microbiology, Federal University Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, Nigeria
Corresponding author: [email protected]
Zaharadeen Muhammad Yusuf | Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Life Sciences, Alqalam University Katsina, Katsina State, Nigeria
1. Lenharo M. WHO declares end to COVID-19’s emergency phase. Nature News: 5 May 2023 [cited 2023 Jun 26]. Available from: www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-01559-z
2. UN News. WHO chief declares end to COVID-19 as a global health emergency. New York; UN News: 5 May 2023. [cited 2023 May 29 ]. Available from: news.un.org/en/story/2023/05/1136367.
4. Siddiqui SS, Rao NS, Saran S, Agrawal A. Disaster classification: an unmet need for a pragmatic medical classification after COVID-19. Disaster Med Public Health Prep 2023;17:e389. CrossRef | PubMed
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