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COVID-19: WHO warns against complacency, says pandemic not over

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO

*The pandemic will not magically disappear. But we can end it, says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of World Health Organisation

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The World Health Organisation (WHO), has warned that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is not over despite reports that COVID-19 cases and deaths have declined significantly around the world.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, stated this at the opening of the World Health Assembly Sunday, May 22, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland.

ConsumerConnect reports the World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO comprising representatives of 194 countries.

While noting it was the first time since 2019 that the Assembly could take place in-person, Dr. Ghebreyesus asked ministers where the world stood two years into the most severe health crisis in a century, agency report said.

The Director-General also told Health Ministers that it was not time to lower the guard in respect of the damaging virus.

Ghebreyesus further stated: “So, is COVID-19 over? No, it’s most certainly not over. I know that’s not the message you want to hear, and it’s definitely not the message I want to deliver.”

According to him, although in several countries of the world, all restrictions had been lifted and life looks much like it did before the pandemic, reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions, because testing rates have plummeted.”

He, however, cautioned the global community that reported deaths are also rising in Africa, the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage.

The WHO Chief as well noted: “This virus has surprised us at every turn – a storm that has torn through communities again and again, and we still can’t predict its path, or its intensity.”

According to him, there is progress with 60 percent of the world’s population already vaccinated, he reminded that almost one billion people in lower-income countries remain unvaccinated.

He stressed that “it’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere….

“Only 57 countries have vaccinated 70 percent of their population – almost all of them high-income countries.”

The Director-General also warned that increasing transmission means more deaths and more risk of a new variant emerging.

The current decline of testing and sequencing as well means “we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus.”

He pointed out as well that in some countries there is still insufficient political commitment to roll out vaccines, and there are still gaps in operational and financial capacity.

“And in all, we see vaccine hesitancy driven by misinformation and disinformation,” said Ghebreyesus.

He explained WHO’s primary focus now is to support countries to turn vaccines into vaccinations as fast as possible, but they are still seeing supply-side problems for tests and therapeutics with insufficient funds and 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.

He urged countries to work together to reach 70 percent of vaccination coverage.

“As we speak, our colleagues around the world are responding to outbreaks of Ebola in DRC, monkeypox and hepatitis of unknown cause, and complex humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen.

“We face a formidable convergence of disease, drought, famine and war, fuelled by climate change, inequity and geopolitical rivalry,” Ghebreyesus told Ministers.

The Director-General Sunday also announced  six awards to recognise outstanding contributions to advancing global health, demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues.

The winners, include British-Lebanese psychiatrist, Dr. Ahmed Hankir, youth sports advocate, Ms. Ludmila Sofia Oliveira Varela, and polio workers in Afghanistan.

The 75th World Health Assembly is being held from 22 to 28 May, 2022, in Geneva.

It is the first in-person Health Assembly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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