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Biden confirms end to covid-19 emergency order: What will change after 11 May?

The national and public health emergency declarations that have been in place since the start of the pandemic will soon come to an end.

White House to end covid-19 emergency order
EVELYN HOCKSTEINREUTERS

President Biden has announced plans to end both the national and public health emergencies - which have been in place since the start of the pandemic - on 11 May 2023.

The move comes three years after then-President Trump announced a national emergency to free up $50 billion in federal funding to help combat the outbreak. It has allowed the federal government to utilise greater resources to tackle covid-19 but its continued use has not been without controversy.

Today’s announcement comes as Republicans in the House of Representatives have forwarded two pieces of legislation that call for an end to both the national and public health emergency declarations. The White House has authorised a temporary extension to ensure that sufficient notice is given before the ending of the emergency status.

A statement released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) explains: “To be clear, continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to covid-19.”

“They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.”

Very little will change in day-to-day life once the declaration is lifted, but it changes the powers and resources afforded to government and healthcare officials to respond to the pandemic.

House GOP introduces ‘Pandemic Is Over’ legislation

Earlier this month a number of GOP lawmakers in the House introduced legislation that would officially declare an end of the covid-19 pandemic, bringing about an immediate cancellation of the emergency orders.

Rep. Brett Guthrie said that the ‘Pandemic Is Over’ Bill was designed to “prevent any more delays” and return to normal federal government powers.

“It is long overdue for President Biden to end the covid-19 public health emergency and relinquish the emergency powers that he just renewed again,” Guthrie said.

However it appears unlikely that there will be any progress made on Guthrie’s effort now that the White House has confirmed a final deadline. The OMB directly referenced Guthrie’s legislation in today’s statement, warning that any premature ending would “create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system.”

For the past three years the emergency declarations have freed up authorities, health officials and other public sector workers to respond more swiftly to the pandemic. This has allowed for greater staffing levels at hospitals, for example, and provided additional financial support.

This is the latest of a number of pandemic-era initiatives brought to an end in recent months. The federal spending bill passed in December included a provision that allows states to begin removing people from Medicaid coverage from April onwards, reversing a temporary halt introduced at the start of the pandemic.