WHO chief pushes for pandemic treaty at World Health Assembly

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 (APP): The Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Monday that a pandemic treaty would help to tackle gaps exposed by coronavirus, strengthen implementation of international health regulations and provide a framework for cooperation in areas such as pandemic prevention and response.

In closing comments to the WHO’s annual week-long high-level assembly in Geneva, Tedros said that a potential international treaty will be discussed in a special session of WHO members in November.

He underlined the importance of taking action now, saying that ‘the world cannot afford to wait until the pandemic is over to start planning for the next one’.

Although COVID cases and deaths are declining globally, Tedros insisted that the “way out” was through “tailored and consistent” public health measures in combination with equitable vaccination.

The WHO Director-General urged all Member States to commit to vaccinating at least 10 percent of the global population by the end of September and at least 30 percent by the end of the year.

“One day – hopefully soon – the pandemic will be behind us, but the psychological scars will remain for those who have lost loved ones, health workers who have been stretched beyond breaking point, and the millions of people of all ages confronted with months of loneliness and isolation”, he underscored.

Tedros stressed that the UN agency needed greater funding for the technical support and guidance that the agency provided to countries.

“The training of health workers, the critical supplies, the surge deployments and much more…It all has to be funded. We cannot pay people with praise”, he said.

Member States “can only truly keep their own people safe if they are accountable to each other at the global level”, Tedros maintained, adding that the pandemic had been characterized by the “lack of sharing” of “data, information, pathogens, technologies and resources”.

He insisted that a pandemic treaty would improve early warning on potential global health threats, promote stockpiling and production of pandemic supplies, allow for equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments and provide an emergency workforce to handle emergencies.

“An international agreement of any kind must be designed and owned by all Member States,” said Tedros. “It must be truly representative and inclusive.

It must be thorough and carefully considered, but it must also be urgent. We don’t have time.”

Globally, as of 30 May 2021, there have been 169,597,415 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to WHO, including 3,530,582 deaths. As of 27 May 2021, a total of 1,546,316,352 vaccine doses have been administered.

In the past week, the global leaders in the World Health Assembly adopted more than 30 resolutions and decisions on diabetes, disabilities, ending violence against children, eye care, HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, local production of medicines, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, non-communicable diseases, nursing and midwifery, oral health, social determinants of health and strategic directions for the health and care workforce.