Oct. 13, 2022

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the 13th meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee on COVID-1

Professor Houssin, Members and Advisors of the Emergency Committee, dear colleagues and friends, 

We have never been in a better position to end COVID-19 as a global health emergency. 

The number of weekly reported deaths is near the lowest since the pandemic began. 

And two-thirds of the world’s population is vaccinated, including 75% of health workers and older people. 

But our work is not yet finished. 

There are still wide disparities in vaccination rates. 

While almost two-thirds of the world’s population has completed a primary course of vaccination, three-quarters of people in low-income countries are yet to receive a single dose. 

Most countries no longer have measures in place to limit the spread of the virus; 

And most countries have reduced surveillance drastically, while testing and sequencing rates are also much lower. 

This is blinding us to the evolution of the virus and the impact of current and future variants. 

Several countries in Europe are now reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. 

This is to be expected, as the weather cools in the northern hemisphere and people spend more time together inside.   

Given the current situation, we expect continued transmission of the virus, and we expect reported cases of COVID-19 to increase. 

But even if cases increase, deaths don’t have to.  We have the vaccines, therapeutics and know-how to save lives. 

As the pandemic evolves, so must the response. 

WHO’s 2022 Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan outlines the key measures that all countries need in place to reduce and control infections and save lives. 

We are concerned that most countries are not using all the tools at their disposal. 

It is important that countries maintain and further strengthen their surveillance, testing and sequencing capacities, so that they can quickly identify and trace the virus.   

At the moment, most countries are not doing this. 

Countries also need to ensure access to diagnostics, antivirals and treatment for all, especially those most at-risk.  

But again, there are still unacceptable gaps in access, putting far too many at risk of severe disease and death. 

My colleagues will provide technical updates on the current epidemiological situation, virus evolution, future scenarios, and the use of life saving tools. 

My thanks once again to you, Professor Houssin, for your leadership.  

And my thanks to each of the committee members and advisors for sharing your expertise, and for your dedication and commitment. 

As always, the International Health Regulations will guide your deliberations. 

I wish you a productive discussion, and I look forward to your recommendations. 

I thank you.

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