In a statement released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday, May 5, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) pandemic declared that COVID-19 is “now an established and ongoing health issue, which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”
This development is the result of the committee’s deliberative session with the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during the previous day.
The director-general addressed the change in recommendations during a Friday press conference, saying that for over a year the pandemic has been on a downward trend and “this trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19.”
The Emergency Committee was first convened to address the novel coronavirus outbreak in Asia in January 2020. Since then, the WHO has been closely monitoring the coronavirus spread and treatment plans to guide the global community through this global health crisis.
According to the WHO’s statement, during the deliberative session the committee members discussed the decline in COVID-19 deaths, the decline in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to COVID-19. Based on the health trends, and still acknowledging the continuing uncertainties posted by potential evolution of the virus, the committee advised that “it is time to transition to long-term management of the COVID-19 pandemic,” meaning introducing the COVID vaccine into regular vaccination requirements and continued offering of healthcare services.
So, what does this mean for travelers? The committee also decided to continue to lift COVID-19 international travel-related health measures, according to comprehensive risk assessments, and to no longer require any proof of vaccination against COVID-19 as a prerequisite for international travel. The CDC recommends—but does not require—that domestic and international travelers test themselves before and after traveling. It is still not recommended for people who test positive for COVID-19 to travel.
The statement from the WHO comes almost a month after President Biden signed a resolution to end the national COVID-19 emergency in early April and a week after the White House and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ended the mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccination for nonimmigrant international air travelers and non-U.S. travelers entering the country by land border and ferry terminals from Canada and Mexico. These requirements will end on May 11, 2023.
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