“There are still many countries with increasing numbers of cases, but at the global level, this is encouraging news”, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking during the agency’s bi-weekly briefing from Geneva.
The development and approval of safe and effective vaccines less than a year after the emergence of a new virus is providing a much-needed source of hope. The challenge we face now is to ensure vaccines are a source of HOPE FOR ALL, not hope for some. #COVID19
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) February 1, 2021
“It shows this virus can be controlled, even with the new variants in circulation. And it shows that if we keep going with the same proven public health measures, we can prevent infections and save lives”.
Stay the course
While welcoming the development, Tedros recalled “we have been here before”, and warned against complacency.
“Over the past year, there have been moments in almost all countries when cases declined, and governments opened up too quickly and individuals let down their guard, only for the virus to come roaring back”, he said.
The WHO chief stressed that as vaccines are rolled out, people everywhere must continue to take measures aimed at keeping themselves, and others, safe.
“It is vital that governments enable people to make the right choices, whether it is making quarantine easier to adhere to, or making workplaces safer,” he said.
“Controlling the spread of the virus saves lives now, and saves lives later by reducing the chances of more variants emerging. And it helps to ensure vaccines remain effective.”
Lack of data undermines response
WHO has underscored the urgent need for better data to strengthen pandemic response and improve health outcomes, in a new report launched on Monday.
The SCORE Global Report provides a snapshot of the state of health information systems around the world and is the first study of its kind.
SCORE stands for Survey, Count, Optimize, Review and Enable, and the report covers 133 country health information systems and just under 90 per cent of the global population.
It reveals that globally, four in10 deaths remain unregistered, while only one in 10 deaths is recorded in the African region.
WHO said the lack of data worldwide limits understanding of the true mortality impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which undermines response planning.
Scoring a goal against COVID-19
The global football governing body, FIFA, is supporting the drive to make COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics available to all countries.
FIFA has teamed up with WHO for the “ACT Together” campaign, which also promotes adherence to the everyday public health measures aimed at preventing coronavirus spread, such as hand washing and wearing masks.
Star footballers and competing team captains will participate in the campaign, which is being held in conjunction with the FIFA Club World Cup 2020, taking place in Qatar from 4-11 February.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino emphasized the importance of having a level playing field, whether in football or in health.
“Fairness and team spirit are key values of our sport,” he said. “And these same key values, fairness and team spirit are needed for today’s great challenge: overcoming COVID-19.”
It is important for football to address issues that affect society, 2001 Ballon d’Or winner Michael Owen told the briefing, reminding that vaccine access must be fair and equitable.
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“This has been a global pandemic, and globally we need to give access to vaccination,” he said.
Update on Wuhan mission
Meanwhile, WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19, Dr. Maria Van Kerhkove, said the international mission on the ground in Wuhan, China, is having “very productive discussions” with counterparts there.
The 15 experts arrived in the city last month to study the origins of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease.
Dr. Van Kerhkove reported that they have visited hospitals, as well as the market, and have met with officials from the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the Chinese CDC.
“Their focus is on the early cases and they are having very good discussions around that,” she said.
The mission has attracted media attention and Dr. Van Kerhkove underscored that the team must be given the space to carry out its work.