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WHO Director-General hopes Global COVID-19 Summit will refocus global leaders on continuing COVID-19 pandemic


by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The second Global COVID-19 Summit will be held on Thursday, May 12, co-hosted by the United States as the first COVID Summit Chair, Belize, as CARICOM Chair; Germany, which has the G7 Presidency; Indonesia, holding the G20 Presidency; and Senegal as African Union Chair.

According to a White House press release, the Second summit will focus on:

  • Recommitting Intensity to Global Response. The Summit will focus on securing new resources and policy commitments to control COVID-19 in 2022.

  • Vaccinating the World; focus on both the quantity of vaccinations and the quality – including providing effective boosters.

  • Protecting the Most Vulnerable; getting vaccines, tests, and treatments to those at highest risk, like the elderly, the immunocompromised and frontline health workers.

  • Preventing future catastrophes;  expanding and financing country capacity, health workers, disease surveillance, and medical countermeasures.

Ahead of the Summit, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the volatility of the COVID-19 virus is being shown by the surge of cases in some countries being driven by the spread of sub-variants of the Omicron variant.

“For the moment, at least hospitalisations and deaths are not rising as quickly as in previous waves. Omicron, specifically BA4 and BA5, is driving the upsurge in South Africa, while BA2 is dominant worldwide. Relatively high population immunity from vaccination and previous waves is keeping the COVID-19 hospitalisation and death rates at a comparatively low level compared to previous waves. But this is not guaranteed for places where vaccination coverage is low.”

The Director-General hopes the Global COVID-19 Summit will urge a global refocus on the possibility that the virus could take a turn for the worse.

“Worst case scenario for COVID-19 include a variant that evades current immunity, transmits more easily and causes greater mortality.”

While Dr. Ghebreyesus is reminding global leaders that the virus is still present, in a comment on China’s zero-tolerance COVID policy, he suggested that it is not sustainable given what is known of the disease.

“When we talk about the zero COVID strategy, we don’t think that it’s sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future. And especially when we have now a good knowledge and understanding of the virus. We have discussed this issue with the Chinese experts, and we indicated that the approach, you know, will not be sustainable. And considering the behaviour of the virus, I think a shift would be very important.”

Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, Dr. Michael Ryan, continued.

“And certainly over the last [few months], since February, March, there was a rapid rise in deaths. So, therefore, any government in that situation will take action to try and combat that. But all of those actions, as we said since the beginning, should show due respect to individual and human rights, and all of us have said as WHO that we need to balance the control measures against the impact they have on society, the impact they have on the economy. That’s not always an easy collaboration to make.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. Dr. Ghebreyesus called on all leaders to help boost population immunity and provide tests, treatments and vaccines for all, including those who do not have easy access to medical resources.


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