WHO chief says ending COVID-19 pandemic ‘not a matter of chance’ but ‘a matter of choice’

"I have one simple request for all Member States, and that is: end this pandemic," Dr. Ghebreyesus said in closing remarks at the Special Session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. "How many more lives and livelihoods it takes is up to us. Ending the pandemic is not a matter of chance; it’s a matter of choice."

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivered a clear message to world leaders on Wednesday, asserting that ending COVID-19 pandemic is “not a matter of chance; it’s a matter of choice.”

“I have one simple request for all Member States, and that is: end this pandemic,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said in closing remarks at the Special Session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. “How many more lives and livelihoods it takes is up to us. Ending the pandemic is not a matter of chance; it’s a matter of choice.”

He said the emergence a new variant of the coronavirus “has demonstrated that it will not simply disappear.”

President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron talk prior to the first session of the G7 Summit on Friday, June 11, 2021, at the Carbis Bay Hotel and Estate in St. Ives, Cornwall, England. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) 
President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron talk prior to the first session of the G7 Summit on Friday, June 11, 2021, at the Carbis Bay Hotel and Estate in St. Ives, Cornwall, England. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

To end the coronavirus pandemic, the WHO chief once again called on all World Health Assembly Member States “to choose to achieve our targets of vaccinating 40% of the population of every country by the end of this year, and 70% by the middle of next year.”

He also made other recommendations that might help end COVID-19, including on countries that have already vaccinated 70 percent of their populations to swap their vaccine delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT as Switzerland has done.

Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference after an English language federal election debate [Carlos Osorio/Reuters] 
Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference after an English language federal election debate [Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

He said, “I call on those countries that have already reached 70% to choose to swap your vaccine delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT, as Switzerland has just done;

“I call on all Member States to choose to remove every barrier to scaling up vaccine production, by sharing technology and know-how, and by supporting a waiver of intellectual property rights.

“I call on those countries that have promised to donate vaccines to choose to make good on those promises, as urgently as possible.

“I call on Member States to choose to fully fund the ACT Accelerator, which needs 23.4 billion U.S. dollars over the next 12 months to get tests, treatments and vaccines to where they are needed most.

“I call on every Member State to choose a comprehensive, tailored, layered combination of proven public health and social measures to reduce transmission, reduce the pressure on your health systems, and save lives.  

“I call on all Member States to focus on strengthening and optimizing clinical pathways, from primary to intensive care, ensuring the right patient get the right care at the right time, and that health workers are supported and protected while doing their life-saving work.

“I call on all Member States to intensify and target risk communication, strengthen community engagement, empowerment and support, addressing community concerns, combatting misinformation and building trust.

“I call on every Member State to choose to increase surveillance, testing, sequencing and reporting, and to refrain from penalizing countries that do, in compliance with the International Health Regulations.

“And I call on all Member States to choose to commit to strengthening your WHO, especially by supporting the proposals of the Working Group on Sustainable Financing.”

UK PM Boris Johnson 
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Dr. Ghebreyesus also praised World Health Assembly Member States for their ‘overwhelming support’ for the need for a new accord on pandemic preparedness and response.

“I welcome the decision you have adopted today, to establish an intergovernmental negotiating body to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, with a view to adoption under Article 19, or under other provisions of the WHO Constitution as may be deemed appropriate by the intergovernmental negotiating body,” he said.

The WHO chief also urged Member States to implement and abide by the provisions of the International Health Regulations, describing the document as “an essential governance tool for the prevention, preparedness, detection and response to public health emergencies.”

“At the same time, the pandemic has exposed shortcomings in the application and implementation of the IHR that I believe are best addressed with a convention, agreement or other international instrument. And as we work together to strengthen the architecture of global health security, I urge all Member States to confront the inescapable truth that we cannot do that without strengthening WHO,” he said.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on ending the war in Afghanistan, Tuesday, August 31, 2021, in front of the Cross Hall of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) 
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on ending the war in Afghanistan, Tuesday, August 31, 2021, in front of the Cross Hall of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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