WHO chief calls for solidarity in fighting epidemics

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 15, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua/Lu Yang)

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Saturday called for solidarity in fighting the epidemics at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC).

"We must be guided by solidarity, not stigma," he reiterated, adding that the greatest enemy is not the virus itself but the stigma "that turns us against each other."

"We must stop stigma and hate," he stressed.

"The outbreaks of Ebola and COVID-19 underscore once again the vital importance for all countries to invest in preparedness and not panic," he told the MSC audience.

The WHO chief said that world spends billions of dollars preparing for a terrorist attack, but spends little preparing for the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly and far more damaging economically, politically and socially.

"This is frankly difficult to understand and dangerously short-sighted," he said.

In addition, the WHO head said that he is encouraged about the steps China has taken to contain the outbreak at its source, which are slowing the spread of the epidemic to the rest of the world.

He is also encouraged that international experts are now on the ground in China, working closely with their Chinese counterparts to understand the outbreak and to inform the next steps in the global response.

Talking about his praise for China, he said he has given credit where it's due.

"I will continue to do that, as I would and I did for any country that fights an outbreak aggressively at its source to protect its own people and the people of the world, even at great costs to itself."