WHO chief warns world could be ‘back at square one’ without fast action to quell Covid spread

Dr Tedros Adhanom reiterates importance of vaccine equity and calls for more donations to Covax

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The world risks being “back at square one” if it fails to stop the spread of Covid-19 quickly enough, the World Health Organisation chief said as he highlighted the danger of virus mutations.

Dr Tedros Adhanom reiterated the need for vaccine equity, describing it not merely as “the right thing to do” but “the smart thing to do”.

He also called for more donations to the Covax facility, a global project that seeks to obtain and distribute Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries.

“The longer it takes to suppress the virus everywhere, the more opportunity it has to change in ways that could make vaccines less effective, an opportunity to mutate,” he told the annual Munich Security Conference which was held virtually.

“We could end up back at square one. More vaccines are being developed, approved and produced. There will be enough for everyone but for now vaccines are a limited resource. We must use them as effectively as we can.”

Asked if the global community was making progress in tackling the pandemic, he said some positive steps were being made.

“Are we succeeding? Yes. Cases and deaths are declining. We have a toolbox of proven public health measures. We now have powerful new tools that we could only dream about a year ago.

“But we must make sure we use those tools effectively, which means using them in all countries to protect the most at-risk groups. That’s the best way to save lives, end the pandemic, restore confidence and reboot the globally economy. But we’re making progress,” he said.

Unity was not just important globally, Dr Tedros said, but within individual countries too. The virus becomes more dangerous when there is a lack of co-operation, he said.

He also underlined the importance of addressing misinformation and conspiracy theories about things such as the impact of vaccines.

In asking for more donations to the Covax initiative, which targets making at least 2 billion vaccine doses available by the end of 2021, Dr Tedros thanked the latest pledge from G7 countries on Friday.

Germany announced it would give another $1.82 billion to the facility and the US has said it will pledge up to $4 billion.

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