The declaration, by the World Health Organisation (WHO), that Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency has been welcomed by the tourism industry.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said cases and deaths have been lowering for more than a year. The WHO declared Covid-19 a global health emergency in January 2020.
Close to 7 million people died from the virus since early 2020.
“It has been so much more than health crisis. It has caused severe economic upheaval, disrupting travel and trade, and plunging millions into poverty,” Mr Ghebreyesus said.
However, he added the virus is here to stay and is constantly changing and urged international governments to remain vigilant.
“It is good news that the WHO has formally recognised that COVID no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern,” said Conrad Clifford, deputy director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“Recent decisions, for example, by the Chinese and US governments to relax the last remaining COVID restrictions on travel, are evidence that the world is doing its best to get back to normal. But, it is important that we never forget what a terrible disaster the pandemic has been. Most of all it was a tragedy for families that lost loved ones, but it has also been an economic and social disaster on a scale and with consequences that still remain to be properly understood. That is why it is so important to learn the lessons of this pandemic to make sure that we are better prepared to manage future health emergencies with much less destruction of lives and livelihoods.“
Mr Clifford added: “From a travel perspective, we know that the lack of scientific basis, consistency or clear communication of the restrictions brought in by governments meant that many of them had little impact on the spread of the virus, but exacerbated the misery caused to millions of people who could no longer visit their families or pursue their business. And for aviation, that meant millions of jobs at risk and global air connectivity set back by years. Therefore, it is important governments heed the lessons from COVID – what worked, and what didn’t work. Decisions taken during the next global public health emergency should be consistent, grounded in science, risk-assessed, and well communicated.”
“Equally, recognising the vital role that aviation has played in ensuring the movement of vaccines, medicines, equipment and medical professionals, governments should make all efforts to maintain global air connectivity and supply chains and to designate aviation personnel as key workers rather than being subject to harsh quarantine restrictions.
“Better preparedness will require more effective collaboration, for example between governments and industry and between aviation and health sectors. IATA is committed to working with global partners, including the WHO and ICAO, to implement new best practices and guidance, and ensure a more resilient and successful approach to managing and safeguarding public health and wellbeing in future years.”