“COVID-19 is not over,” warns Tedros at World Health Assembly |
Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus delivered his message at the launch of the annual World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body made up of representatives from 194 countries.
Noting that it was the first time since 2019 that the Assembly could be held in person, he asked ministers where the world stood after two years of the worst health crisis in a century.
“So, is COVID-19 over? No, it’s definitely not over. I know that’s not the message you want to hear, and it’s certainly not the message that I want to deliver,” he said.
He added that although in many countries all restrictions have been lifted and life is much like it was before the pandemic, reported cases are increasing in nearly 70 countries across all regions.
“…And that in a world where testing rates have plummeted,” he added.
Tedros warned that reported deaths were also rising in Africa, the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage.
“This virus has surprised us at every turn – a storm that has torn communities apart again and again, and we still cannot predict its trajectory, nor its intensity,” he said.
Global Gaps in the COVID-19 Response
While agreeing that there is progress with 60% of the world’s population already vaccinated, Tedros recalled that nearly a billion people in low-income countries are still unvaccinated.
“It ain’t over nowhere ’til it’s over everywhere… Only 57 countries have vaccinated 70% of their population – almost all high-income countries,” he noted.
The WHO chief also warned that increased transmission means more deaths and more risk of a new variant emerging, and the current decline in testing and sequencing means “we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus.
He also pointed out that in some countries, the political commitment to roll out the vaccines is still insufficient and that there are still gaps in operational and financial capacities.
“And overall, we see vaccine hesitancy driven by misinformation and disinformation,” he added.
It is possible to end the pandemic
Tedros said WHO’s main focus now is to help countries turn vaccines into vaccines as quickly as possible, but they are still facing supply issues for tests and therapies with funds and a insufficient access.
“The pandemic will not magically disappear. But we can end it. We have the knowledge. We have the tools. Science has given us the upper hand,” he said, calling on countries to work together to achieve 70% vaccination coverage.
© UNICEF/Frank Dejongh
Other World Health Assembly priorities
The Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, from May 22-28, 2022. It is the first in-person Health Assembly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the meeting, country delegates make decisions on health goals and strategies that will guide public health work and the work of the WHO Secretariat to move the world towards better health and well-being. be for all.
The theme for this year’s Assembly is Health for peace, peace for health.
“As we speak, our colleagues around the world are responding to outbreaks of Ebola in the DRC, monkeypox and hepatitis of unknown cause, and complex humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan , Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen.
We face a formidable convergence of disease, drought, famine and war, fueled by climate change, inequality and geopolitical rivalry,” Tedros told ministers.
Global Health Leaders Awards
The WHO Director-General also announced six awards on Sunday to recognize outstanding contribution to the advancement of global health, demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues.
The winners are British-Lebanese psychiatrist Dr Ahmed Hankir, youth sports advocate Ms Ludmila Sofia Oliveira Varela and polio workers in Afghanistan.
You can find more information about this year’s winners here