7th May 2023 | Abuja - Official Statement following the Declaration of COVID-19 as no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern
On the 5th of May, 2023 the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus declared COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). This declaration was made after a careful review of current evidence that shows there is high population-level immunity from the SARS-CoV-2 infection, improved knowledge of the virus and management of confirmed COVID-19 cases, a decline in the global burden of the virus, and also a steady increase in vaccine uptake across countries.
The declaration that COVID-19 is no longer PHEIC is to enable countries' transition from acute emergency response to managing COVID-19 as part of integrated healthcare delivery for all infectious diseases. The threat of the virus remains within countries and globally and particularly for high-risk groups. As transmission continues within communities, the risk of new variants emerging and resulting in surges in case numbers and even deaths remains.
Nigeria had already de-escalated its COVID-19 response since 2022 in response to local epidemiology, focused on encouraging COVID-19 vaccination and recommended discretionary use of face masks and other public health safety measures according to personal risk assessments. This continues to be complemented by efforts to leverage the pandemic response (lessons, resources, partnerships, etc) to improve our national health security through health system strengthening, improving public health emergency management training, laboratory and infrastructural upgrades and strategic focus on improving emergency preparedness and planning at State and Local Government levels.
As part of its integrated disease surveillance strategy, the NCDC continues to encourage routine COVID-19 testing along with other infectious diseases as may be indicated in healthcare settings as part of clinical care, for pandemic flu preparedness, as part of bi-directional testing during investigations for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and in high-risk populations. Working with partners, the NCDC is also piloting pan-respiratory virus surveillance which is aligned with the WHO’s recently declared preparedness and resilience for emerging threats (PRET) initiative. As part of our genomic surveillance, we will introduce wastewater/environmental surveillance to track not just SARS-CoV-2 but antimicrobial resistance, Mpox, and typhoid (salmonella). Finally, we continue to work on consolidating COVID-19 pandemic laboratory investments into a cohesive tiered national network of public health laboratories as prescribed in the NCDC Act (2018).
With the continued emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases, our frequent and often concurrent disease outbreaks, and public health investments made during the pandemic to ensure health security in the country will need to be sustained.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) is the country’s national public health institute, with the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection, and response to public health emergencies. The Bill for an Act to establish NCDC was signed into law in November 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari. The mission of the NCDC is to protect the health of Nigerians through evidence-based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response, using a One Health approach, guided by research, and led by a skilled workforce.
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Dr Ifedayo Adetifa
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.