Tuesday, 11 February 2020 22:10

WHO leading the way on the novel Coronavirus

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We live in a world of soundbites where complex issues are often condensed into memes and slogans. When it comes to fighting a global health threat like 2019-nCoV the simple reality is that memes and slogans are not going to cut it. We need statesmanship and we need leadership, so it's reassuring to see exactly that coming from from the Director-General of WHO - Dr Tedros Adhanom in a speech given earlier today. Key parts of this speech are quoted below:

It’s hard to believe that just two months ago, this virus – which has come to captivate the attention of media, financial markets, and political leaders – was completely unknown to us.

As of 6am Geneva time this morning, there were 42,708 confirmed cases reported in China, and tragically we have now surpassed 1000 deaths - 1017 people in China have lost their lives to this outbreak.

Outside China, there are 393 cases in 24 countries, with 1 death, in the Philippines.

With 99% of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world. Unless we use the window of opportunity that we have now.

This outbreak is testing us in many ways.

It’s a test of political solidarity – whether the world can come together to fight a common enemy that does not respect borders or ideologies.

It’s a test of financial solidarity – whether the world will invest now in fighting this outbreak, or pay more later to deal with its consequences.

And it’s a test of scientific solidarity – will the world come together to find shared answers to shared problems?

That’s why we’re here today.

This is not a meeting about politics or money. This is a meeting about science.

We need your collective knowledge, insight and experience to answer the questions we don’t have answers to, and to identify the questions we may not even realize we need to ask. 

There is still so much we don’t know.

What are the reservoirs?

What are the transmission dynamics?

What is the period of infectiousness?

Which samples should be used for diagnosis and monitoring of treatment?

What is the best way to manage cases of severe disease?

What ethical issues we need to be aware of in the way we do our research?

To defeat this outbreak, we need answers to all those questions, and more.


Dr Tedros' speech ended like this:


To defeat this outbreak, we need open and equitable sharing, according to the principles of fairness and equity.

WHO remains committed to equitable access to health products for populations that need them, and we will work to ensure that access is always part of all R&D efforts.

Publications, patents and profits are not what matters now.

What matters most is stopping the outbreak and saving lives.


The full text can be found on the WHO website here.

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