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WHO - World Health Organization

05/03/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/03/2021 11:32

Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 3 May 2021

  • Earlier today, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced the end of the most recent Ebola outbreak, three months after the first case was reported in North Kivu.
  • More cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally in the past two weeks than during the first six months of the pandemic. India and Brazil account for more than half of last week's cases.
  • Sweden will donate 1 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to COVAX, which follows similar donations by France, New Zealand and Norway, with positive signs from some other countries.
  • The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator currently faces a funding gap of 19 billion US dollars, and we estimate that we will need a further 35 to 45 billion dollars next year to vaccinate most adults around the world. The G7 countries could mobilize a substantial portion of these funds themselves, and lead a global effort to accelerate vaccination around the world.

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

Earlier today, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced the end of the most recent Ebola outbreak, three months after the first case was reported in North Kivu.

I congratulate the government, health workers, communities and all WHO staff who were involved in the response.

This has only been possible thanks to a concerted, comprehensive and consistent approach, using vaccines and therapeutics alongside proven public health measures, with empowered and engaged communities.

COVID-19 is a very different disease, but the approach is the same.

The absence of any one of these key measures presents a weakness that this virus will exploit, as we are seeing all over the world.

More cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally in the past two weeks than during the first six months of the pandemic.

India and Brazil account for more than half of last week's cases, but there are many other countries all over the world that face a very fragile situation.

In India, WHO is providing critical equipment and supplies including oxygen concentrators, lab supplies and mobile field hospitals.

We're also providing advice for people on how to provide care at home for families that are unable to find a hospital bed.

For patients with severe or critical disease, WHO recommends treatment with dexamethasone.

And WHO and the WHO Foundation are raising funds to support the need for oxygen and related supplies globally.

In the meantime, we call on everyone to continue to follow WHO and national advice on keeping safe: maintain physical distance, avoid crowds, wear a well-fitted mask that covers the nose and mouth properly, open windows, cover coughs and sneezes and clean your hands.

What is happening in India and Brazil could happen elsewhere unless we all take these public health precautions that WHO has been calling for since the beginning of the pandemic.

Vaccines are part of the answer, but they are not the only answer.

On Friday, WHO gave Emergency Use Listing to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, making it the fifth to receive WHO validation.

Emergency Use Listing is one prerequisite for vaccines to be purchased and supplied through COVAX. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval and to import and administer a vaccine.

And we're pleased to note that Gavi has signed an agreement with Moderna for 500 million doses of vaccine on behalf of COVAX.

This morning I met with Sweden's Minister for Development Coordination, Minister Per Olsson Fridh, who informed me that Sweden will donate 1 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to COVAX.

Tack så mycket, Sweden, for this donation, which follows similar donations by France, New Zealand and Norway, with positive signs from some other countries. We call on all other countries to follow the example these countries have set, and donate through COVAX to help accelerate equitable distribution and access.

COVAX has now shipped almost 50 million doses of vaccine to 121 countries and economies, but we continue to face severe supply constraints.

Solving this dilemma demands courageous leadership from the world's largest economies.

Next month, leaders from the G7 countries will gather for what may be the most significant meeting in its history.

The G7 countries are the world's economic and political leaders. They are also home to many of the world's vaccine producers.

We will only solve the vaccine crisis with the leadership of these countries.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator currently faces a funding gap of US$19 billion, and we estimate that we will need a further US$35 to US$45 billion dollars next year to vaccinate most adults around the world.

The G7 countries could mobilize a substantial portion of these funds themselves, and lead a global effort to accelerate vaccination around the world.

We face a shared threat that we can only overcome with shared solutions:

Sharing financial resources;

Sharing vaccine doses and production capacity;

And sharing technology, know-how and waiving intellectual property.

Today it's my great honour to be joined by Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom.

As Prime Minister, Mr Brown hosted the G20 Summit in 2009, when under his leadership the G20 countries committed to making an additional US$1.1 trillion available to alleviate the most acute economic crisis since the Great Depression.

We now face an even more severe crisis, and we need the same kind of leadership.

Gordon, thank you so much for your leadership, and thank you for joining us today. You have the floor.

[GORDON BROWN ADDRESSED THE MEDIA]

Thank you Gordon, and thank you once again for your clear and powerful call to world leaders.

Finally, I would like to recognize three important days that we are observing this week.

First, today is World Press Freedom Day.

WHO values the role of a free and fair press in informing the public and in holding governments and institutions accountable.

Second, Wednesday marks World Hand Hygiene Day, a reminder that clean hands save lives.

And third, Wednesday also marks the International Day of the Midwife, an opportunity to celebrate the vital role that midwives play every day of every year, and especially during the past year.

Christian, back to you.