Opening Remarks at a Briefing on Covid-19
July 27, 2020
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.
This Thursday marks six months since WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern.
This is the sixth time a global health emergency has been declared under the International Health Regulations, but it is easily the most severe.
Almost 16 million cases have now been reported to WHO, and more than 640,000 deaths.
And the pandemic continues to accelerate.
In the past 6 weeks, the total number of cases has roughly doubled.
When I declared a public health emergency of international concern on the 30th of January – the highest level of alarm under international law – there were less than 100 cases outside of China, and no deaths.
As required under the International Health Regulations, I will reconvene the Emergency Committee later this week to re-evaluate the pandemic and advise me accordingly.
COVID-19 has changed our world. It has brought people, communities and nations together, and driven them apart.
It has shown what humans are capable of – both positively and negatively.
We have learned an enormous amount, and we’re still learning.
But although our world has changed, the fundamental pillars of the response have not: political leadership, and informing, engaging and listening to communities.
And nor have the basic measures needed to suppress transmission and save lives: find, isolate, test and care for cases; and trace and quarantine their contacts.
Keep your distance from others, clean your hands, avoid crowded and enclosed areas, and wear a mask where recommended.
Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they’re not, cases go up.
Countries and communities that have followed this advice carefully and consistently have done well, either in preventing large-scale outbreaks – like Cambodia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Thailand, Viet Nam, and islands in the Pacific and Caribbean – or in bringing large outbreaks under control – like Canada, China, Germany and the Republic of Korea.
These are just a few examples, but there are many more that could have been listed.
The bottom line is that one of the most fundamental ingredients for stopping this virus is determination, and the willingness to make hard choices to keep ourselves and each other safe.
Over the past 6 months, WHO has worked tirelessly to support countries to prepare for and respond to this virus.
I am immensely proud of our organization, WHO, and its incredible people and their efforts.
Within days of learning of the first cases in China, we published extensive guidance on how to find, test and treat cases and protect health workers.
We also published the first protocol for testing for the virus, and immediately started working with a manufacturer in Germany to produce tests and ship them to countries most in need.
We convened hundreds of scientists to develop a roadmap for research.
We have brought together thousands of experts from all over the world, in many disciplines, to analyse the evolving evidence and distil it into guidance.
Never before has WHO produced such a large volume of technical advice in such a short period.
More than 4 million people have enrolled in our training courses through the OpenWHO.org online learning platform.
We launched the Solidarity Trial to find answers fast about which therapeutics are the most effective.
We launched Solidarity Flights to ship millions of test kits and tons of protective gear all over the world.
We launched the Solidarity Response Fund, which has so far mobilized more than US$225 million from more than 563,000 individuals, companies and philanthropies.
In addition, we mobilized more than 1 billion dollars from Member States and other generous donors to support countries.