GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — The World Health Organization’s chief called Monday on everyone to keep fighting COVID-19, warning that while we may be sick of battling the pandemic, the virus is “not tired of us.”
Speaking to WHO’s main annual assembly, which resumed Monday after being cut short in May, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also hailed the election of Joe Biden as the next U.S. president, voicing hope it could signal tighter global cooperation to end the pandemic.
It was vital, he said, for people to follow the science and resist the urge to turn a blind eye to the virus.
“We might be tired of COVID-19. But it is not tired of us,” he said.
Tedros, speaking from quarantine after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, warned that the virus preys on weakness.
“It preys on those in weaker health, but it preys on other weaknesses too: inequality, division, denial, wishful thinking and wilful ignorance, he said.
We cannot negotiate with it, nor close our eyes and hope it goes away.”
“It pays no heed to political rhetoric or conspiracy theories,” he said.
“Our only hope is science, solutions and solidarity.”
His comment came after COVID-19 has killed more than 1.25 million people and infected over 50 million worldwide since it first surfaced in China late last year.
Tedros warned that the pandemic had laid bare the need for the world to recapture a “sense of common purpose,” which in recent years has been eroded by the “creeping tides of misguided nationalism and isolationism.”
“In that spirit, we congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and we look forward to working with their administration very closely.”
Biden has signalled that his administration will reverse Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States — traditionally WHO’s top donor — from the UN health agency.
“We need to reimagine leadership, built on mutual trust and mutual accountability, to end the pandemic and address the fundamental inequalities that lie at the root of so many of the world’s problems,” Tedros said.
This week’s resumed World Health Assembly will also focus on a wide range of the more than 60 other health emergencies the WHO has responded to this year, including measles, Ebola and yellow fever outbreaks.
It will also be an occasion for countries to discuss calls to reform the UN health agency and countries’ responsibilities to boost preparedness for health emergencies.