World leaders must shun politics of populism, self-interest to end COVID-19 in 2022

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The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, has advised world leaders to shun what he described as the “politics of populism and self-interest” if the world would see the end of the coronavirus pandemic in 2022.

Mr Ghebreyesus gave this advice at the WHO last media briefing on COVID-19 on Wednesday.

“This is the moment for leaders to banish the politics of populism and self-interest, which are derailing the COVID-19 response and threatening to undermine the response to the inevitable next disease,” he said.

Speaking on the new WHO hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence based in Berlin, he assured that the global body would continue to support countries towards building strong health systems and ensure the distribution of health tools.

He said: “In 2022, WHO will work with our member states to build well-financed health systems, strengthen preparedness and ensure the equitable distribution of health tools.

“From the new WHO Bio Hub System which offers a reliable, safe and transparent mechanism for WHO 194-member-states to voluntarily share novel biological materials to the new WHO hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence based in Berlin, WHO will build mechanisms to enhance partnerships.

“In this vein, the development of a new binding accord between nations on pandemic prevention preparedness and response will be a key pillar. I hope to see negotiations move swiftly and leaders to act with ambition.”

New year resolution

The WHO boss also advised everyone to make a new year resolution to achieve the WHO’s targets to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population of every country by mid-2022.

“While 2021 has been hard, I ask everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to get behind the campaign to vaccinate 70 per cent by the middle of 2022,” he said, adding; “We have 185 days to finish the line of achieving 70 per cent by the start of July 2022, and the clock starts now.”

“If we drive this campaign together, we will all be in a much better place by this time next year,” he said.

WHO had initially set a target to vaccinate 10 per cent of every country, economy and territory by the end of September but by that date 56 countries had not been able to do so, the vast majority of these are countries in Africa and the Middle East.

As a result of that, the WHO launched the Strategy to Achieve Global COVID-19 Vaccination by mid-2022, which outlines a plan for achieving its targets to vaccinate 40 per cent of the population of every country by the end of this year and 70 per cent by mid-2022.

COVID-19 variants

Speaking further about the existing COVID-19 variants, Mr Ghebreyesus confirmed that the delta and omicron variants are twin threats that are driving up cases to record numbers, which is leading to spikes in hospitalisations.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: WHO warns against blanket boosters as vaccine inequity persists

“And there’s a high concern that omicron, being more transmissible and circulating at the same time as delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases. This will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse.

“The pressure on health systems is not only because of new COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalisation but also because a large number of health workers are getting sick themselves,” the director-general said.

He noted that the unvaccinated are many times more at risk of dying from either the delta or omicron variant, which is moving so quickly.

On vaccination inequity, the WHO director-general emphasised the need for leaders and manufacturers to work on achieving 70 per cent vaccination coverage.

“By ending global vaccine inequity, I want the government, industry and civil society to work with us on a campaign that targets 70 per cent vaccine coverage in every country by the start of July,” he added.

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