WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 15 January 2021

• The emergency committee met this week and made a series of recommendations about the COVID-19 outbreak. With almost two million deaths, and new variants appearing in multiple countries, the emergency committee emphasized the need for governments to do all they can to curb infections through tried and tested public health measures.
• I was pleased that the emergency committee put a major emphasis on rolling out COVID-19 vaccines equitably. I want to see vaccination underway in every country in the next 100 days so that health workers and those at high-risk are protected first.
• I am looking forward to the Executive Board next week and working with manufacturers and countries to ensure that vaccine supply is available and distributed equitably around the world.
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.
The emergency committee met this week and made a series of recommendations about the COVID-19 outbreak.
It will come as no surprise to you that variants and vaccines were heavily discussed as well as the current epidemiological situation.
Some countries in Europe, Africa and the Americas are seeing spikes in cases with multiple factors driving transmission risk.
This is because we are collectively not succeeding at breaking the chains of transmission at the community level or within households.
We need to close the gap between intent and implementation at the country and individual level because at present there’s immense pressure on hospitals and health workers.
With almost two million deaths, and new variants appearing in multiple countries, the emergency committee emphasized the need for governments to do all they can to curb infections through tried and tested public health measures.
The more the virus is suppressed, the less opportunity it has to mutate.
We need to be more efficient than the virus and reach excellence in everything we do.
There is only one way out of this storm and that is to share the tools we have and commit to use them together.
The Committee called for upgrading national sequencing capacity so that as the virus changes, we can effectively monitor and respond to new challenges.
This is a defining moment in the pandemic and I was pleased that the emergency committee put a major emphasis on rolling out COVID-19 vaccines equitably.
Health workers are exhausted, health systems are stretched and we’re seeing supplies of oxygen run dangerously low in some countries.
Now is the time we must pull together as common humanity and rollout vaccines to health workers and those at highest risk.
This is key to saving lives, protecting health systems and driving a fair recovery.
We have also developed updated guidance about how to best protect people in long-term care facilities and recognize that if they are isolated it has a profoundly negative impact physically and mentally.
The guidance aims to prevent the COVID-19 virus from entering the facilities and ensure our loved ones remain safe.
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I was really pleased to see refugees in Jordan start to be vaccinated this week.
I truly appreciate the approach taken by the Jordanian government to ensure that refugees are not left behind.
It is critical this momentum on equitable vaccine rollout continues in the weeks ahead.
I came into public health because I wanted to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to quality health services.
I know what it’s like to come from a continent where not all health services are available.
When AIDS drugs first rolled out, they were only available in rich countries until a historic movement of health advocates, civil society and manufacturers provided a rollout of low-cost antiretroviral drugs.
In the H1N1 pandemic, by the time low-income countries received vaccine supply, the pandemic was over.
We don’t want this to be repeated.
COVID-19 vaccines are a major scientific breakthrough and I know through COVAX that we will distribute them a lot more effectively than in the past.
We are working hard but we must all do more to ensure that vaccines reach those that need them most.
I will keep repeating this over and over again during the coming weeks, because as I said on Monday, I want to see vaccination underway in every country in the next 100 days so that health workers and those at high-risk are protected first.
I am looking forward to the Executive Board next week and working with manufacturers and countries to ensure that vaccine supply is available and distributed equitably around the world.
I now want to turn to the chair of the Emergency Committee, Professor Didier Houssin to discuss the recommendations from the Committee.
Professor, the floor is yours.
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Thank you so much Professor, these recommendations are very important as the world fights COVID-19.
The greater the solidarity we have, the more lives we will save and the quicker we will end this pandemic.
I thank you.

Source: World Health Organization

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