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emergency over

COVID-19 no longer a global health emergency, WHO says

COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Friday. The announcement comes more than three years after the emergency was first declared and after the virus killed close to 7 million people globally, Reuters reports.

"For more than a year the pandemic has been on a downward trend," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference. "This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19." 

While it is no longer considered an emergency, the virus still exists and continues to spread. "The battle is not over. We still have weaknesses and those weaknesses that we still have in our system will be exposed by this virus or another virus," said Michael Ryan, the WHO's emergencies director. Indeed, a new COVID variant dubbed "Arcturus," of which pink eye may be a symptom, has begun circulating. In addition, many of those who were infected are suffering from long COVID, where symptoms last far longer than usual.

The WHO urges countries to reflect on the pandemic and the changes they can make to protect themselves in the future. "We can't forget those fire pyres. We can't forget the graves that were dug. None of us up here will forget them," said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on COVID-19. As Tedros concluded: "We must promise ourselves and our children and grandchildren that we will never make those mistakes again."