On Friday, May 5th, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19 is no longer being considered a global emergency, thus ending the pandemic status of the virus officially.
“For more than a year, the pandemic has been on a downward trend,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
“With population immunity increasing from vaccination and infection, mortality decreasing and the pressure on heath systems easing, this trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19.”
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) May 5, 2023
“It is with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global emergency,” added Dr. Ghebreyesus.
The head of the WHO continued by acknowledging that “COVID is here to stay” and that it will always remain a threat to people across the world.
Adrian Dix, Minister of Health and Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s Chief Medical Officer made a joint statement on the matter on Friday afternoon, following the WHO’s announcement.
“Today’s news from the World Health Organization marks an important milestone and reminds us of the many challenges we have weathered together these past three years,” said Dr. Henry and Dix.
“We have been transitioning out of the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic for some time now, and have been integrating COVID-19 surveillance, monitoring, processes and supports into our regular health system operations.”
The pair acknowledge the WHO’s announcement but erring on the side of caution, as they are still pushing for people to keep up with regular vaccinations in order to protect those most vulnerable.
“COVID-19 is still with us, and will be with us for the foreseeable future, so we need to continue to monitor and to take measures we know protect ourselves and others,” Dix and Dr. Henry explained.
“Thanks to the high level of population immunity, primarily from vaccination and combinations of boosters and infection, the virus is no longer causing severe disease in most people.”
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have prioritized the protection of vulnerable populations – from seniors, to the very young, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and those who are marginalized.”
Despite the announcement, in workplaces where vulnerable British Columbians are still at high risk of contracting illnesses, some requirements remain.
“At this time, COVID-19 vaccination requirements for health-care system workers remain in place. We will continue to monitor the situation during this transition phase and ensure our public-health response continues to protect those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Dr. Henry and Dix.
The duo say that British Columbians should continue to get vaccinations and keep up with boosters, stay home if they feel unwell, wear a mask if respiratory symptoms are present, practice good hand washing hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on areas of our health system that we have been challenged by, and has highlighted some of the inequities in our community that we need to pay attention to,” said Dix and Dr. Henry.
“As we have done throughout the pandemic, we continue to incorporate these lessons into emergency planning and response, so we are better positioned and better prepared for future public health emergencies.”