WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the press conference on COVID-19 – 14 June 2022 – World


Hello, good afternoon and good evening,

Today is World Blood Donor Day.

Blood donations are a lifeline in emergencies, disasters, humanitarian crises and for people who need regular transfusions.

And yet, many communities around the world do not have access to safe blood. Women and children are most at risk.

So please donate blood if you can, and donate regularly.

And to the millions of blood donors around the world – thank you. You are literally lifesavers. Thanks a lot.

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A few hours ago, the WHO published a new technical note on Parkinson’s disease.

Worldwide, disability and death from Parkinson’s disease are increasing faster than from any other neurological disorder.

The prevalence of Parkinson’s disease has doubled over the past 25 years.

And yet, around the world, the resources to manage the disease are lacking, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Our new note describes the global burden and treatment gap, and provides considerations for policy, implementation and research, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

It outlines key actions for policy makers and healthcare providers to prevent and treat Parkinson’s disease, raise awareness and support people with the disease and their carers.

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The global decline in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths continues.

Reported cases and deaths have now both fallen more than 90% from their peaks earlier this year.

This is a popular trend.

Yet more than 3 million cases were reported to the WHO last week – and as many countries have reduced surveillance and testing, we know this number is underreported.

And 8737 deaths have been reported – 8737 deaths too many.

We cannot afford to become insensitive to these numbers.

There is no acceptable level of death from COVID-19, yet we have the tools to prevent, detect and treat this disease.

Many of us who live in high-income countries have easy access to these tools. We now take them for granted.

But for many people around the world, these tools remain rare commodities.

It has now been more than two years since the WHO and our partners launched the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP.

C-TAP was proposed by former President Carlos Alvarado Quesada of Costa Rica, to promote voluntary mechanisms for sharing intellectual property, know-how and data.

The licenses that C-TAP has received, for tests, vaccines and therapeutics, are making a real difference and showing that this innovative mechanism can work.

However, the licenses we have received are too few and only come from government research institutes. Manufacturers did not contribute a single license.

It shows why the world needs a more efficient mechanism to share licenses in emergencies, and why governments that fund so much research must retain licensing rights for products needed in emergencies.

The WHO is aware that countries are discussing a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 tools at the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference this week.

As I have said many times, the TRIPS waiver was created to be used in emergencies. So if not now, then when? I hope that countries will come to an agreement on a waiver not only for vaccines, but also for diagnostics and therapeutics.

As you know, last week the Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, released its first report.

Understanding the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is very important to prevent future epidemics and pandemics.

All hypotheses must remain on the table until we have evidence that allows us to rule out certain hypotheses.

We continue to call on China to collaborate in this process and to carry out the studies recommended by SAGO.

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Turning now to the Horn of Africa, where the worst drought in 40 years has plunged more than 30 million people in eight countries into acute food insecurity: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda.

Many families have left their homes in search of food, water and pasture.

The health implications are serious.

Malnutrition can impact health throughout life and makes people increasingly vulnerable to disease.

Severely malnourished children are nine times more likely to die from diseases such as cholera and measles.

The WHO has now classified this crisis as a level 3 emergency, the highest level in our internal system.

A Level 3 emergency means that we coordinate the response at all three levels of the organization – country offices, regional offices and headquarters.

Our priorities are to help countries fight epidemics and ensure that people have access to the essential health services they need.

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Finally, monkeypox.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 1,600 confirmed cases and almost 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO by 39 countries, including seven countries where monkeypox has been detected for years and 32 countries newly affected.

So far this year, 72 deaths have been reported in previously affected countries. No deaths have been reported so far in the newly affected countries, although the WHO is seeking to verify news from Brazil of a monkeypox-related death.

WHO’s goal is to help countries contain transmission and stop the outbreak through proven public health tools, including surveillance, contact tracing and isolation of infected patients.

It is also essential to increase awareness of the risks and actions to reduce onward transmission for the groups most at risk, including men who have sex with men and their close contacts.

Today we also released interim guidance on the use of smallpox vaccines for monkeypox.

WHO does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox.

While smallpox vaccines should provide some protection against monkeypox, clinical data and supply are limited.

Any decision whether or not to use vaccines should be made jointly by those who may be at risk and their healthcare provider, based on a risk-benefit assessment, on a case-by-case basis.

It is also essential that vaccines are equitably available where they are needed.

To this end, WHO is working closely with its Member States and partners to develop a mechanism for equitable access to vaccines and treatments.

WHO is also working with partners and experts around the world to change the name of the monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes.

We will make announcements on the new names as soon as possible.

The global outbreak of monkeypox is clearly unusual and concerning.

It is for this reason that I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations next week to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.

Christian, come back to yourself.

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