The head of the World Health Organisation blames vaccine inequity and a lack of observation of public health measures for prolonging the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “people are really sick and tired” after nearly two years of lockdowns and restrictions to keep the virus in check.
Covid case numbers are again on the rise in some parts of the world, recently topping 250 million globally since the start of the pandemic.
While most developed countries have vaccinated the majority of their populations, more than half the world has yet to receive a single dose. Dr Tedros previously accused wealthy countries of “vaccine nationalism” and hoarding vaccines to the detriment of poorer parts of the world, such as the African continent.
“The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it, because it's in our hands. It's no longer a matter of technology, or a matter of science. It's a matter of political will and courage,” he told the Paris Peace Forum, which opened on Thursday.
Reiterating that the pandemic is not over, he said aggressive action was required.
"Africa, as a continent, is seriously affected by the inequity of vaccine distribution or vaccine nationalism. It's an average 5 per cent vaccination coverage. That's very, very low," he said.
“This has to be addressed. The vaccine inequity is epidemiologically, economically and morally wrong. Inequity has to end if we're going to end this pandemic.”
He highlighted the WHO goal that 40 per cent of the population of all countries be vaccinated by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by mid-2022. But based on current trends, Dr Tedros said 80 countries may not reach the 40 per cent target.
“It's only when everyone is safe that each and every individual is safe. It's in the interest of all countries to make sure that the target of 40 per cent is achieved, for common good and if we're really interested to end this pandemic.”
European Council President Charles Michel insisted that the EU is “very keen to resolve this injustice”, saying the Covid threat to Africa was also a danger to the world.
“The pandemic showed how important it was to work together, to detect signs early and to share data and information for greater transparency. When we need to make a decision, the likelihood of taking the right decision increases when you have access to information,” he said.
“All political leaders across the world at the beginning of this pandemic were really working with very little information. They were facing the unknown and they needed information to make the right decisions.”