The WHO has lifted its global health emergencies, but has not given all-clears.

CC – 05/2023

The World Health Organisation (WHO) was able to announce two pieces of good news in May: The global health emergencies for the COVID-19 virus as well as Mpox (formerly monkeypox) have been lifted. The infection figures for both viruses have continued to decline to the point where the independent expert council recommended that the emergencies should be lifted and this was followed up. However, this is not yet general all-clears.


WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued an urgent warning after the announcement: "The worst thing a country could do now is to use this news as a reason to reduce its vigilance, dismantle the systems it has created or to send a message to its citizens that COVID-19 is no longer a cause for concern".

Because the infection figures for COVID-19 are still high. By 7 May 2023, over 765 million confirmed cases and over 6.9 million deaths have been reported worldwide. In Europe, there were around 276 million cases with over 2.2 million deaths (see WHO dashboard). Vaccinations and other protective measures have resulted in a sustained decline in infection rates.

And in the EU?

On 2 May, the EU’s Swedish Presidency also lifted full monitoring in its crisis reaction mechanism (IPCR) for COVID-19. The crisis responses across the sectors have been coordinated between the member states since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen assured that the EU will continue to work to enable improved surveillance, vaccinations and prevention of COVID-19 as well as it being better prepared for future health crises.


Lessons have been and will continue to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The establishment of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Agency (HERA), as well as the strengthened mandates of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) are three key measures. One should also look at the European Parloament. The COVI special committee plans to adopt its "Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recommendations for the future" report on 12 June (see News 03/2023). Significant impulses can be expected from the Members in the European Parliament.

Not only at EU level, but also globally as cooperation will be intensified in the future. Currently underway are negotiations about an international pandemic agreement and the 2005 amendments to the International Health Regulations. The agreement aims to ensure equal access to the tools needed for preventing a pandemic as well as access to health care for everyone. Formal negotiations started in February 2023 and are expected to be completed in 2025.

It is becoming clear that work is being done not only nationally, but also at the European and global levels to ensure that a health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic does not happen again. Everyone has a responsibility regarding this.