WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the Member State Information Session on COVID-19 – 19 August 2021

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19 August 2021 Speech
WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the Member State Information Session on COVID-19 – 19 August 2021

18 August 2021 Speech
WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 18 August 2021
In Haiti, where the earthquake has killed more than 1,900 people, we are continuing to support the government and the people by all means possible during this difficult moment.
The people of Afghanistan are facing an enormous challenge.  We are particularly concerned about the health and wellbeing of women and girls.  Our staff remain in the country and committed to delivering health services to the most vulnerable.
This week, a new case of Ebola was identified in Côte d’Ivoire.  Thousands of doses of Ebola vaccines were sent from Guinea to Cote d’Ivoire and ring vaccination of high-risk contacts has started.
Just 10 countries have administered 75 per cent of all vaccine supply and low-income countries have vaccinated barely 2 per cent of their people.  I called for a temporary moratorium on boosters to help shift supply to those countries that that have not even been able to vaccinate their health workers and at-risk communities and are now experiencing major spikes.
Vaccine injustice is a shame on all humanity and if we don’t tackle it together, we will prolong the acute stage of this pandemic for years when it could be over in a matter of months.  When G20 health ministers meet on the 5th and 6th of September in Rome, I will call on them to consider the fragility of this historic moment and make a clear defining commitment to solidarity.
…At present, just 10 countries have administered 75 per cent of all vaccine supply and low-income countries have vaccinated barely 2 per cent of their people.

I called for a temporary moratorium on boosters to help shift supply to those countries that that have not even been able to vaccinate their health workers and at-risk communities and are now experiencing major spikes.

Last week, WHO brought together 2,000 experts from all around the world and debated the available data on boosters. What is clear is that it’s critical to get first shots into arms and protect the most vulnerable before boosters are rolled out.

 

The divide between the haves and have nots will only grow larger if manufacturers and leaders prioritise booster shots over supply to low- and middle-income countries. The virus is evolving and it is not in the best interests of leaders just to focus on narrow nationalistic goals when we live in an interconnected world and the virus is mutating quickly.

In fact, strong national leadership would be to fully commit to vaccine equity and global solidarity, which would save lives and slow variants down.

 

In this context, I was stunned by the news that J&J vaccines fill and finished in South Africa are leaving the continent and going to Europe, where virtually all adults have been offered vaccines at this point. 

We urge J&J to urgently prioritize distribution of their vaccines to Africa before considering supplies to rich countries that already have sufficient access…

 

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Weekly operational update on COVID-19 – 16 August 2021
Overview
n this edition of the COVID-19 Weekly Operational Update, highlights of country-level actions and WHO support to countries include:
Facilitating procurement of 1.6 million antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic tests to strengthen COVID-19 diagnostic in Indonesia
The roll-out of Go.Data contact tracing tool in Ukraine
Donated COVID-19 vaccine doses by France arrive in Somalia
Community health at the center of COVID-19 vaccination in indigenous communities in Paraguay
Online learning opportunities to support hospital infection prevention and control committees in Azerbaijan
Progress on a subset of indicators from the SPRP 2021 Monitoring and Evaluation Framework
Updates on WHO’s financing to support countries in SPRP 2021 implementation and provision of critical supplies.

Weekly epidemiological update on COVID-19 – 17 August 2021
Overview
The global number of new cases has been increasing for the last 2 months with over 4.4 million cases reported in the past week (9 – 15 August 2021), bringing the cumulative number of globally to cases to over 206 million. This increasing trend is largely attributed to increases in the Western Pacific Region and the Region of the Americas which reported 14% and 8% increases respectively as compared to the previous week. Overall, the number of deaths reported remained similar with over 66 000 deaths this week, as compared to the previous week. While the African Region reported the largest percentage decrease in case and death incidence, 23% and 18% respectively, data from the weekend is incomplete which might lead to an overestimation of the percentage change. The Western Pacific and the Eastern Mediterranean Regions reported the highest proportionate increases in death incidence of 23% and 15% respectively over the last seven days.

In this edition, a special focus updates are provided on:
SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern (VOCs) Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta which includes updates on the geographic distribution of VOCs.
COVID-19 in Prisons

 

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Call for experts to join Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens
20 August 2021 News release
Issued on: 20 August Deadline: 10 September
The World Health Organization (WHO) today issued an open call for experts to serve as members of the new WHO Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO).

The SAGO will advise WHO on technical and scientific considerations regarding the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential, and will be composed of a wide range of experts acting in their personal capacity. SAGO will also guide WHO on next steps for understanding the SARS-CoV-2 origins.

There have been an increasing number of high threat pathogens emerging and re-emerging in recent years with, for example, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, Lassa, Marburg, Ebola, Nipah, avian influenza, the latest being SARS-CoV-2. There is a clear need for robust surveillance and early actions for rapid detection and mitigation efforts, as well as systematic processes to study the emergence of these pathogens and routes of transmission from their natural reservoirs to humans. This is critical to helping WHO, Member States and partner institutions to prepare for future spillover threats and to minimize the risk of a disease outbreak growing into a pandemic.

From SARS-CoV-2, which continues to wreak havoc around the world, to the next “Disease X”, this global framework to study the emergence of new and known high threat pathogens needs to be comprehensive and coordinated based on a One Health approach. It should also encompass biosafety and biosecurity. And it needs to be scientific, transparent, comprehensive, rapid and inclusive…

Functions of SAGO
…4. In the context of SARS-CoV-2 origins:
:: To provide the WHO Secretariat with an independent evaluation of all available scientific and
technical findings from global studies on the origins of SARS-CoV-2;
:: To advise the WHO Secretariat regarding developing, monitoring and supporting the
next series of studies into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, including rapid advice on WHO’s
operational plans to implement the next series of global studies into the origins of
SARS-CoV-2, as outlined in the ‘Joint WHO-China Global Study of Origins of SARS-
CoV-2: China Part’ report published on 30 March 2021 and advise on additional studies as
needed; and
5. To provide additional advice and support to WHO, as requested by the WHO SAGO Secretariat,
which may include participation in future WHO-international missions to study the origins of SARS-
CoV-2 or for other emerging pathogens.

…More information can be found on the Terms of Reference of the SAGO The SAGO will be multidisciplinary, with members who have a range of technical knowledge, field experience, skills and experience relevant to emerging and re-emerging pathogens. Up to 25 experts may be selected…