On Friday, the leader of the World Health Organization downplayed the role of a vaccine in ending the coronavirus pandemic, and instead called for a focus on climate change.
Tedros said that around the globe, health care systems are being burdened as never before with no end in sight.
“Several countries around the world are now experiencing fresh outbreaks after a long period with little or no transmission,” he said.
“These countries are a cautionary tale for those that are now seeing a downward trend in cases.”
See the statement in the video below.
Tedros was not upbeat about the declining caseloads being reported.
“Progress does not mean victory. The fact remains that most people remain susceptible to this virus. That’s why it’s vital that countries are able to quickly identify and prevent clusters, to prevent community transmission and the possibility of new restrictions,” he said.
“No country can just ride this out until we have a vaccine.”
A vaccine may not end the problem though, according to Tedros.
“A vaccine will be a vital tool, and we hope that we will have one as soon as possible. But there’s no guarantee that we will, and even if we do have a vaccine, it won’t end the pandemic on its own.”
He then called for societal changes beyond lockdowns.
“We must all learn to control and manage this virus using the tools we have now, and to make the adjustments to our daily lives that are needed to keep ourselves and each other safe,” he said.
“So-called lockdowns enabled many countries to suppress transmission and take the pressure off their health systems. But lockdowns are not a long-term solution for any country. We do not need to choose between lives and livelihoods, or between health and the economy. That’s a false choice.
“On the contrary, the pandemic is a reminder that health and the economy are inseparable. WHO is committed to working with all countries to move into a new stage of opening their economies, societies, schools and businesses safely,” he said, adding that “Every single person must be involved.
“Every single person can make a difference. Every person, family, community and nation must make their own decisions, based on the level of risk where they live. That means every person and family has a responsibility to know the level of transmission locally, and to understand what they can do to protect themselves and others.”
Ghebreyesus then said climate change demands attention now more than ever.
“At the same time, we will not — we cannot — go back to the way things were. Throughout history, outbreaks and pandemics have changed economies and societies. This one will be no different,” he said.
“In particular, the pandemic has given new impetus to the need to accelerate efforts to respond to climate change. The pandemic has given us a glimpse of our world as it could be: cleaner skies and rivers,” he said.
“Building back better means building back greener.”
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said it’s “very important” people learn “how to live with this virus,” according to the media briefing.
Such steps will “continue to suppress transmission, be ready to identify cases and any clusters that pop up so we can quickly put those out … and minimize as many deaths as possible,” she said. “In doing so, some countries may need to implement some measures again.”
“What we are seeing is a targeted approach to adding interventions that need to be put in place to get outbreaks under control and try to reduce the number of infections that are happening.”