Thank you. Thank you
so much, Fadela [Chaib]. Shokran.
Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening.
One year ago, the first death from COVID-19 was reported and WHO issued its
first tranche of technical guidance.
The comprehensive package included guidance on surveillance, lab testing,
infection prevention and control, a readiness checklist, and risk communication
and community engagement.
A year on, there have been almost 2 million deaths from the COVID-19 virus and
while we are hopeful about the safe and effective vaccines that are being rolled
out, we want to see this sped up and vaccines allocated equitably in the coming
Next week at the WHO Executive Board, I will be encouraging all countries to
fulfill their pledges to
I call for a collective commitment so that within the next 100 days, vaccination
for health workers and those at high-risk in all countries are underway.
Governments, manufacturers, civil society, religious and community leaders must
come together to create the greatest mass mobilization in history for equitable
WHO continues to ask vaccine manufacturers from around the world to move swiftly
to provide the necessary data that will allow us to consider them for emergency
Iím pleased that a WHO team is in China currently working with producers of the
Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines to assess compliance with international quality
manufacturing practices ahead of potential emergency use listing by WHO.
To clarify this is separate from the WHO origins mission.
We also look forward to Serum Institute of India submitting full data sets for
rapid assessment so WHO can determine whether we can recommend their AstraZeneca
vaccine for international use.
These are just a couple examples of work under way by WHO, GAVI, CEPI and other
partners aimed at safe, rapid, equitable and wise allocation of vaccines.
As I have said before and will say again, saving lives, livelihoods and
economies depends on a global agreement to avoid vaccine nationalism.
Over the weekend, WHO was notified by Japan about a new variant of the virus.
The more the virus spreads the higher the chance of new changes to the virus.
Most notably, transmissibility of some variants of the virus appears to be
This can drive a surge of cases and hospitalizations, which is highly
problematic for health workers and hospitals already close to breaking point.
This is especially true where public health and social measures have already
This can have a knock-on effect on other essential health services.
At present, the variants do not seem to show increased severity of disease.
With new treatments coming down the pipeline, we are hopeful that more lives of
those with serious cases of COVID-19 can be saved.
But we need to follow the public health basics now more than ever.
Keep as much physical distance as you can from other people. Keep rooms
well-ventilated. Wear a mask. Keep your hands clean. And cough away from others
into your elbow.
You might get fed up of hearing it but the virus is not fed up with us.
Limiting transmission limits the chance of dangerous new variants from
Whatís most critical is that we sequence the virus effectively so we know how
itís changing and how to respond.
For example, while diagnostics and vaccines still seem to be effective against
the current virus, we may need to tweak them in the future.
Last week, WHO released a comprehensive implementation guide and risk-monitoring
framework to help countries set up high-impact sequencing programmes.
We call on all countries to increase the sequencing of the virus to supplement
ongoing surveillance, monitoring and testing efforts.
And to share that data internationally. This helps us better understand when
variants of concern are identified.
We are aware that sequencing requires specialized equipment, a trained workforce
and close collaboration between experts.
Building upon our existing lab networks, WHO is working with countries to
enhance sequencing capacity and we extend our support to all countries who need
We achieve much of this through our international network of labs for SARS-CoV-2
and influenza flu lab network, both of which have been a beacon of science,
solutions and solidarity in the last year.
Tomorrow, WHOís R&D Blueprint group is convening scientists from around the
world to set global research priorities for the year ahead, including on virus
variants and sequencing.
This builds on a years worth of work defining and delivering on an R&D roadmap
Just as we look forward on research and rolling out vaccines, we continue work
on the origins.
We are pleased that an international team of scientists Ė distinguished experts
from ten institutions and countries Ė are commencing their travel to China to
engage in and review scientific research with their Chinese counterparts on the
origins of the virus.
I want to thank all GOARN partners and the countries supporting this mission.
This includes Australia, Denmark, Germany, Kenya, Japan, Netherlands, Qatar,
Russia, Sudan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Vietnam, and
our colleagues from China.
Studies will begin in Wuhan to identify the potential source of infection of the
Scientific evidence will drive hypotheses, which will then be the basis for
further, longer-term studies.
This is important not just for COVID-19 but for the future of global health
security and to manage emerging disease threats with pandemic potential.
We will share more news as we have it but letís give this team of scientists the
space to work with their Chinese counterparts effectively and letís wish them