Headlines December 6, 2020
World can start dreaming of pandemic’s end, says UN Health Chief
The United Nations Health Chief has announced that positive results from coronavirus vaccine trials mean the world offer hope about the end of the pandemic. But he also warned that rich and powerful nations must not trample the poor and marginalised in the rush to acquire the vaccine.
In an address to the U.N. General Assembly, the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned that while the virus can be stopped, “the path ahead remains treacherous.”
Referring to the current upsurge in infections and deaths, Tedros said without naming any countries that “where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by division, where sacrifice is substituted with self interest, the virus thrives, the virus spreads.”
On vaccines, Tedros said, “the light at the end of the tunnel is growing steadily brighter,” but vaccines “must be shared equally as global public goods, not as private commodities that widen inequalities and become yet another reason some people are left behind.”
Despite years of warnings, Tedros said, many countries were unprepared for the pandemic and assumed their health systems would protect their people. Many countries that have done best dealing with the crisis had experience responding to the outbreaks of SARS, MERS, HINI and other infectious diseases, he said.
WHO has been sharply criticised for not taking a stronger and more vocal role in handling the pandemic.
The pandemic also showed the need for a global system to share samples of viruses and other pathogens that cause disease to facilitate development of “medical counter-measures as global public goods” he said, welcoming Switzerland’s offer to use a high-security laboratory to manage a new biobank.
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