#WHO; #Omicron; #pandemictreaty; #EquityPlea; #GlobalPandemicTreaty
New York/Canadian-Media: The emergence of the threatening new Omicron variant shows how important it is for the world to end the current “cycle of panic and neglect” over the COVID-19 pandemic, said the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was addressing the start of a special three-day meeting of the organization’s governing body in Geneva on Monday, amidst a global alert over the new strain, arguing that greater international cooperation is essential to preserve “hard-won gains” against the virus.
The World Health Assembly meeting was convened to decide on the issue of a so-called “pandemic treaty”.
Tedros said the world has not responded accordingly to COVID-19, and vaccine inequity, among other challenges, has facilitated the appearance of new highly mutated variants such as Omicron.
“Omicron demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics: our current system disincentivizes countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores”, said the WHO Director-General.
Praise for South Africa alert
Tedros underscored that South Africa — where Omicron has first identified just days ago — should be thanked for detecting, sequencing, and reporting the new variant, and not penalized, referring to the current travel bans many countries are imposing on the African nation and its neighbors.
The UN Secretary-General also expressed his deep concern on Monday for the isolation now being felt by southern African countries due to the new restrictions imposed on travel from the region, by dozens of nations across the world.
“The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa — and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world”, said António Guterres, in a strongly-worded statement.
I appeal to all governments to consider repeated testing for travelers, together with other appropriate and truly effective measures”, he added.