While cases have been surging, Tedros noted that the “explosion” in cases had not been matched by a surge in deaths, although fatalities were rising in all regions, particularly in Africa where countries were struggling to access vaccines.
Tedros hinted that when COVID-19 pandemic was declared public health emergency of international concern two years, there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths reported outside China.
“Two years later, almost 350 million cases have been reported, and more than 5.5 million deaths and we know these numbers are an underestimate. On average last week, 100 cases were reported every three seconds, and somebody lost their life to COVID-19 every 12 seconds.”
The global health body chief, said that COVID-19 pandemic is much more than a pandemic but a brutal reminder that health is not a by-product of development and that when health is at risk, everything is at risk.
“It’s true that we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future, and that we will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated system for acute respiratory diseases, which will provide a platform for preparedness for future pandemics.
“But learning to live with COVID cannot mean that we give this virus a free ride. It cannot mean that we accept almost 50 thousand deaths a week, from a preventable and treatable disease.
“There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out, and how the acute phase could end.
“As it stands, 86 Member States across all regions have not been able to reach last year’s target of vaccinating 40 percent of their populations and 34 Member States, most of them in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region, have not been able to vaccinate even 10 percent of their populations.
“Also, 85 percent of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine. How can this be acceptable to any of us? We simply cannot end the emergency phase of the pandemic unless we bridge this gap. But we can bridge it, and we are making progress.
Tedros said the world cannot gamble on a virus whose evolution it cannot control or predict but was optimistic that with the right course of action, the pandemic could reach a turning point in 2022.
He said if countries use strategies and tools in a comprehensive way, the acute phase of the pandemic can end this year and the world can end Covid-19 as a global health emergency.
“The pandemic has demonstrated that we must elevate protecting and promoting health as a top priority, with significantly increased investment in countries, and at WHO.
“The second priority is to support a radical reorientation of health systems towards primary health care, as the foundation of universal health coverage. The third priority is to urgently strengthen the systems and tools for epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response at all levels, underpinned by strong governance and financing to ignite and sustain those efforts, connected and coordinated globally by WHO. “We all want a world in which science triumphs over misinformation; solidarity triumphs over division; and equity is a reality, not an aspiration.