WHO Official's Latest Comment About COVID-19 Has People Wondering If It's a 'Warning or a Threat'

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Posted: Dec 29, 2020 11:45 AM
WHO Official's Latest Comment About COVID-19 Has People Wondering If It's a 'Warning or a Threat'

Source: Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP

The Wuhan coronavirus has killed more than a million people worldwide, wreaked havoc on global economies, and upended daily life on a profound level. And yet, the World Health Organization said COVID-19 is “not necessarily the big one.”

“This is a wakeup call,” WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan said on Monday during a press conference, reports the New York Post. “This pandemic has been very severe.”

He continued: “It has spread around the world extremely quickly and it has affected every corner of this planet, but this is not necessarily the big one.”

Ryan noted that while COVID-19 is “very transmissible, and it kills people… its current case fatality (rate) is reasonably low in comparison to other emerging diseases.”

He added: “The likely scenario is the virus will become another endemic virus that will remain somewhat of a threat, but a very low-level threat in the context of an effective global vaccination program.

“It remains to be seen how well the vaccines are taken up, how close we get to a coverage level that might allow us the opportunity to go for elimination,” he continued. “The existence of a vaccine, even at high efficacy, is no guarantee of eliminating or eradicating an infectious disease. That is a very high bar for us to be able to get over.”

The world must prepare for “something that may even be more severe the future,” he said.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 81 million global cases of COVID-19 and over 1.7 million people have died from the novel coronavirus. In the United States, 335,208 deaths have been reported as of Dec. 29. 

WHO senior advisor Bruce Aylward said that while progress has been made on the scientific front related to COVID-19, the agency is not fully prepared to fend off another pandemic. 

“We are into second and third waves of this virus and we are still not prepared to deal with and mange those,” he said. “So while we are better prepared…we are not fully prepared for this one, let alone the next one.”

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged it is “time now to be really serious.” 

Though there has been more awareness, he said “more ambition will be necessary.” 

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Tedros also praised cooperation on a global level among scientists to help bring the pandemic to an end, citing the two new strains of the virus that Britain and South Africa are now dealing with. 

“We are working with scientists in the UK and South Africa who are carrying out epidemiologic and laboratory studies, which will guide next steps,” he said.

“Only if countries are looking and testing effectively will you be able to pick up variants and adjust strategies to cope,” Tedros continued. 

And as dozens of countries have now imposed travel restrictions on Britain, Tedros said, “we must ensure that countries are not punished for transparently sharing new scientific findings.”

One Twitter user commented, “It will never end until the people refuse to have it continue.” Others wondered if it meant China has "something bigger planned." Some questioned whether it was a "warning or a threat."