Dr. Bonnie Henry says the World Health Organization’s downgrading of the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t unexpected, but it’s still an important milestone.
WHO said Friday that COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency, marking a symbolic end to the devastating coronavirus pandemic that triggered once-unthinkable lockdowns, upended economies worldwide and killed at least 7 million people worldwide.
Provincial health officer Henry told Black Press Media Friday (May 5) she knew that was likely to be the advice “given the situation globally.” She said it aligns with the steps B.C. has taken in the last six to eight months.
“It is, in that sense, a bit of an anti-climax,” she said, referring to the last three years.
“It doesn’t change things in terms of road we’re on and the path that we’ve been walking in the last few months. Covid is still around and it’s going to be another one of those viruses that we’re going to have to pay attention to, continue to monitor, continue to take measures to protect ourselves and our families.”
WHO first declared COVID-19 to be an emergency more than three years ago. The U.N. health agency’s officials said that even though the emergency phase was over, the pandemic hasn’t come to an end, noting recent spikes in cases in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. WHO says that thousands of people are still dying from the virus every week.
In a joint statement from Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, they say the province has 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.”
However, Henry said it’s still an opportunity to reflect. She said she hoped in the first few months COVID-19 wouldn’t have as much of a global impact, and for as long – similar to the SARS outbreak in 2003.
“But by the summer 2020, it was clear to me, anyway, that it was spreading in the community in a different way and we were in for a much longer haul than I was hopeful for initially.”
– With files from The Canadian Press