WHO Warns Against End Talk 01/24 06:54
GENEVA (AP) -- The head of the World Health Organization is warning that
conditions remain ideal for more coronavirus variants to emerge and says it's
dangerous to assume omicron is the last one or that "we are in the endgame,"
while saying the acute phase of the pandemic could still end this year -- if
some key targets are met.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, laid out Monday an array
of achievements and concerns in global health over issues like reducing tobacco
use, fighting resistance to anti-microbial treatments, and risks of climate
change on human health. But he said, "Ending the acute phase of the pandemic
must remain our collective priority."
"There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out and how
the acute phase could end. But it's dangerous to assume that omicron will be
the last variant or that we are in the endgame," Tedros told the start of a WHO
executive board meeting this week. "On the contrary, globally, the conditions
are ideal for more variants to emerge."
But he insisted that "we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, and
we can do it this year," by reaching goals like WHO's target to vaccinate 70
percent of the population of each country by the middle of this year, with a
focus on people who are at the highest risk of COVID-19, and improving testing
and sequencing rates to track the virus and its emerging variants more closely.
"It's true that we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future and
that we will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated
system for acute respiratory diseases" to help prepare for future pandemics, he
said. "But learning to live with COVID cannot mean that we give this virus a
free ride. It cannot mean that we accept almost 50,000 deaths a week from a
preventable and treatable disease."
In stark terms, Tedros also appealed for strengthening WHO and increasing
funding for it to help stave off health crises.
"Let me put it plainly: If the current funding model continues, WHOis being
set up to fail. The paradigm shift in world health that is needed now must be
matched by a paradigm shift in funding the world's health organization."