January 17, 2022

WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 1 December 2021

Pin It
World Health Organization
  • Today, WHO’s Member States decided to embark on the process of drafting and negotiating a new convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. 
  • The emergence of the Omicron variant has understandably captured global attention. At least 23 countries from all six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron, and we expect that number to grow. 
  • We call on all countries to take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures, in keeping with the International Health Regulations. 
  • We must not forget that we are already dealing with a highly transmissible, dangerous variant – the Delta variant, which currently accounts for almost all cases globally. Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage, and very low testing – a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants. 
  • As we mark World AIDS Day, we are reminded that more than 40 years into the global AIDS epidemic, we still have no vaccine and no cure for this disease. Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not one but many vaccines, and many other effective tools. 

—————————————————————————————————-

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

As you know, today is a momentous day for global health.

Today, WHO’s Member States decided to embark on the process of drafting and negotiating a new convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The significance of this decision cannot be overstated.

Just as countries have united in the past to adopt treaties against tobacco, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, climate change and more;

So today, the nations of the world have made a strong statement that health security is too important to be left to chance, or goodwill, or shifting geopolitical currents, or vested interests.

A convention, agreement or other international instrument will not solve every problem. But it will provide the overarching framework to foster greater international cooperation, and provide a platform for strengthening global health security.

In their decision today, Member States agreed to establish an intergovernmental negotiating body to begin drafting and negotiating a new accord.

They committed to holding their first meeting by the first of March next year, and to submit the outcome of their negotiations to the World Health Assembly in 2024.

That may seem like a long process, and it is, but we should not be naïve in thinking that reaching a global accord on pandemics will be easy.

The idea for an international instrument on tobacco control was formally initiated in 1995, but the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control did not enter into force until a decade later.

Of course, we hope that this process will not take nearly that long.

But there are still differences of opinion about what a new accord could or should contain.

Nevertheless, today countries have proven to each other and the world that differences can be overcome, and common ground can be found.

The spirit of solidarity that we have seen today is what we need not just to prevent and mitigate the impact of future pandemics, but to end this one.

The emergence of the Omicron variant has understandably captured global attention.

At least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron, and we expect that number to grow.

WHO takes this development extremely seriously, and so should every country.

But it should not surprise us. This is what viruses do.

And it’s what this virus will continue to do, as we long as we allow it to continue spreading.

We are learning more all the time about Omicron, but there’s still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease, and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines.

Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions.

I thank Botswana and South Africa for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant so rapidly.

It is deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalized by others for doing the right thing.

We call on all countries to take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures, in keeping with the International Health Regulations.

This includes measures to delay or reduce the spread of the new variant, such as screening of passengers prior to travelling and/or upon arrival, or the application of quarantine to international travellers.

Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of Omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

WHO continues to call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures, and ensure that high-risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated immediately.

At the same time, we must not forget that we are already dealing with a highly transmissible, dangerous variant – the Delta variant, which currently accounts for almost all cases globally.

We need to use the tools we already have to prevent transmission and save lives from Delta. And if we do that, we will also prevent transmission and save lives from Omicron.

But if countries and individuals don’t do what they need to do to stop transmission of Delta, they won’t stop Omicron either.

Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage, and very low testing – a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants.

That’s why we continue to urge countries to fully fund the ACT Accelerator, to ensure equitable access to vaccines, tests and therapeutics all over the world.

As we mark World AIDS Day, we are reminded that more than 40 years into the global AIDS epidemic, we still have no vaccine and no cure for this disease.

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not one but many vaccines, and many other effective tools.

This virus has demonstrated that it will not simply disappear.

How many more lives and livelihoods it takes is up to us.

Ending the pandemic is not a matter of chance; it’s a matter of choice.

Christian, back to you.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About ieyenews

Speak Your Mind

*