WHO chief calls for cooperation, financing to end COVID-19 pandemic

WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, May 29, 2021. (Photo: CFP)

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday called for cooperation and collaboration in the face of common threats from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WHO chief made the remarks at a panel discussion titled "Get Well Soon: Finding a Way Out of the Pandemic" during the ongoing Munich Security Conference in the southern German city of Munich.

He described as "dangerous" the narrative that the pandemic was over with high vaccination rate in some countries and denied the claims that the Omicron coronavirus variant was less severe.

Tedros said that 70,000 people were dying each week from a preventable and treatable disease, 83 percent of the population in Africa was yet to receive a single COVID-19 vaccine dose and the healthcare systems across the world continued to strain and crack under the heavy caseload.

"In fact, the conditions are ideal for more transmissible, more dangerous variants to emerge," he told his fully masked audience.

"We can end the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health emergency this year. We have the tools. We have the know-how," he argued.

Tedros called on all countries to fill the urgent financing gap of $16 billion for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to make vaccines, tests, treatments and personal protective equipment available globally.

The ACT-Accelerator was established in April 2020, just weeks after the pandemic was declared, to speed up the development and access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. The global vaccine solidarity initiative COVAX is one of its four pillars.

"Compared with the costs of another year of economic turmoil, $16 billion is, frankly, peanuts," he said.

According to Tedros, substantial resources for strengthening global health security were needed both nationally and globally. "Ending this pandemic must remain our focus. At the same time, we must learn the lessons it is teaching us," he added.