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US to end COVID-19 emergency declarations

US President Joe Biden has informed Congress that he will end the twin national emergencies for addressing COVID in May, as most of the world has returned closer to normality nearly three years after they were declared.

The move to end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response to treat the virus as an endemic threat to public health that can be managed through agencies’ normal authorities.

It comes as lawmakers have already ended elements of the emergencies that kept millions of Americans insured during the pandemic.

Combined with the drawdown of most federal COVID relief money, it would also shift the development of vaccines and treatments away from the direct management of the federal government.

Mr Biden’s announcement came in a statement on Tuesday (Australian time) opposing resolutions being brought to the floor this week by House Republicans to bring the emergency to an immediate end. House Republicans are also gearing up to launch investigations on the federal government’s response to COVID-19.

Then-president Donald Trump first declared the pandemic a national emergency on March 13, 2020. The emergencies have been repeatedly extended by Mr Biden since he took office in January 2021, and will expire in coming months.

The White House said Mr Biden planned to extend them both briefly to end on May 11.

The costs of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to skyrocket once the US government stops buying them, with Pfizer saying it will charge as much as $US130 ($184) a dose. Only 15 per cent of Americans have received the recommended, updated booster that has been offered since last autumn.

Once the emergency expires, people with private insurance will have some out-of-pocket costs for vaccines, tests and treatment, while the uninsured will have to cover all of those expenses.

More than 1.1 million people in the US have died from COVID since 2020, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 3700 last week.

– AAP

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