| 13 April 2024, Saturday |

WHO chief tells Munich conference world not prepared for new pandemic

The world is not prepared for a new pandemic that could follow the coronavirus, said the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), reiterating his view that the crisis is not over.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus remarks were made in an address to the three-day Munich Security Conference in Berlin.

“We have been saying the world has not been prepared for a long time,” said Tedros. “And it was caught by surprise due to this pandemic. I don’t see that the world is prepared. And I worry because the investment we expect is not happening.”

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who was also at the conference, said he does not think the world can reach the goal of 70% vaccination in 2022.

“It’s too late, too late,” said Gates. “There are a lot of diseases out there,” he said. “We live in a very inequitable world.”

“I think a disease like this reminds people how inequitable global health is every single day,” he added.

Tedros addressed an often-asked question about when the pandemic will end.

“So when will it end? Is it ending now? These are some of the major questions being asked.

“Indeed, high vaccine coverage in some countries, combined with a lower severity of omicron, is driving a dangerous narrative that the pandemic is over. But it’s not,” he said.

He said the pandemic could not end when 70,000 people die from a preventable and treatable disease in one week.

“Not when 83% of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine,” said Tedros.

The WHO chief said it could not happen when health systems continue to strain and crack under the caseload.

Tedros said that COVID-19 is a highly transmissible virus, circulating almost unchecked, with too little surveillance to track its evolution.

“In fact, conditions are ideal for more transmissible, more dangerous variants to emerge,” he said.

He said that the pandemic could end as a global health emergency this year.

“We have the tools; we have the know-how. In particular, we’re calling on all countries to feel the urgent financing gap of $16 billion for the ACT accelerator to make vaccines, tests, treatments, and PPE (personal protective equipment) available everywhere,” said Tedros., referring to the global collaboration to ensure equitable access to coronavirus tests, treatments and vaccines.

He said that compared to the costs of another year of economic turmoil, $16 billion is “frankly peanuts.”AA