WHO / WHA PRESSER

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01-Dec-2021 00:06:06
WHO chief Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said, “Today, the nations of the world have made a strong statement that health security is too important to be left to chance, or goodwill, or shifting geopolitical currents, or vested interests." WHO

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STORY: WHO / WHA PRESSER
TRT: 6:06
SOURCE: WHO
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LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 01 DECEMBER 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

SHOTLIST:

FILE – GENEVA, SWTIZERLAND

1. Wide shot, WHO emblem outside headquarters

01 DECEMBER 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

2. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“Today, WHO’s Member States decided to embark on the process of drafting and negotiating a new convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The significance of this decision cannot be overstated. Just as countries have united in the past to adopt treaties against tobacco, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, climate change and more. So today, the nations of the world have made a strong statement that health security is too important to be left to chance, or goodwill, or shifting geopolitical currents, or vested interests."
4. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“The emergence of the Omicron variant has understandably captured global attention. At least 23 countries from five out of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron, and we expect that number to grow. WHO takes this development extremely seriously, and so should every country. But it should not surprise us. This is what viruses do. And it’s what this virus will continue to do, as we long as we allow it to continue spreading."
6. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“We are learning more all the time about Omicron, but there’s still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease, and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines. Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions. I thank Botswana and South Africa for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant so rapidly. It is deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalized by others for doing the right thing."
8. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of Omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. WHO continues to call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures, and ensure that high-risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated immediately.”
10. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“At the same time, we must not forget that we are already dealing with a highly transmissible, dangerous variant – the Delta variant, which currently accounts for almost all cases globally. We need to use the tools we already have to prevent transmission and save lives from Delta. And if we do that, we will also prevent transmission and save lives from Omicron. But if countries and individuals don’t do what they need to do to stop transmission of Delta, they won’t stop Omicron either. Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage, and very low testing – a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants."
12. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
"But it is certainly possible that one of the scenarios is that the virus, as it continues to evolve, may still have a fitness advantage, meaning that it could become more transmissible. More transmissible than Delta? We'll have to see. But we don't know quite yet about the severity. I do think we should caution about best-case, worst-case scenario. The more this virus circulates, the more infections there will be, the more infections there will be, the more people will die. And this is something that can be prevented. So, everything that we can do for Delta, which is dominant worldwide, needs to be applied and strengthened for Omicron."
14. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
15. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
“And so certainly, if there is any disincentive, if countries feel like they will be penalized for reporting that information, that is of course a worry for us. We, you know, rely on this information, quite frankly, and we need to somehow figure out that all of us are either in this together or we are not. You cannot have a pandemic in part of the world and not in others. And for the record, we're very much in the middle of this pandemic. The fact that we have new variants emerging will continue because the virus is circulating."
16. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
17. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
"There are economic and social consequences to travel bans, particularly blanket travel bans. But there are circumstances in which in modifying travel, in reducing travel and in adding more checks within the process of travel can help to reduce or at least delay the spread of some disease. But that in no way, in no way should be even used as a single measure."
18. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference

STORYLINE:

WHO chief Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said, “Today, the nations of the world have made a strong statement that health security is too important to be left to chance, or goodwill, or shifting geopolitical currents, or vested interests."

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva today (01 Dec) at the closing of the World Health Assembly’s special session, Dr Tedros said the significance of the decision by the Organization’s Member States to negotiate a treaty on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response “cannot be overstated.” He said, “Just as countries have united in the past to adopt treaties against tobacco, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, climate change and more; so today, the nations of the world have made a strong statement that health security is too important to be left to chance, or goodwill, or shifting geopolitical currents, or vested interests."

The WHO Director-General said at least 23 countries from five out of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron, “and we expect that number to grow.” He added, “WHO takes this development extremely seriously, and so should every country. But it should not surprise us. This is what viruses do. And it’s what this virus will continue to do, as we long as we allow it to continue spreading."

Dr Tedros said, “We are learning more all the time about Omicron, but there’s still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease, and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines. Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions. I thank Botswana and South Africa for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant so rapidly. It is deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalized by others for doing the right thing."

The WHO chief stressed that blanket travel bans “will not prevent the international spread of Omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.” He added that WHO continues to call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures and ensure that high-risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated immediately.

The WHO Director-General recalled that the world was already dealing with the “highly transmissible, dangerous” Delta variant, “which currently accounts for almost all cases globally.” He said, “We need to use the tools we already have to prevent transmission and save lives from Delta. And if we do that, we will also prevent transmission and save lives from Omicron. But if countries and individuals don’t do what they need to do to stop transmission of Delta, they won’t stop Omicron either. Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage, and very low testing – a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants."

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 Technical lead it was certainly possible that the virus, “as it continues to evolve, may still have a fitness advantage, meaning that it could become more transmissible.” She added, “More transmissible than Delta? We'll have to see. But we don't know quite yet about the severity. I do think we should caution about best-case, worst-case scenario. The more this virus circulates, the more infections there will be, the more infections there will be, the more people will die. And this is something that can be prevented. So, everything that we can do for Delta, which is dominant worldwide, needs to be applied and strengthened for Omicron."

Van Kerkhove expressed concern over any “disincentive” to countries that might feel like they would be penalized for reporting information on new variants. She said WHO relies on this information, “quite frankly, and we need to somehow figure out that all of us are either in this together or we are not.” She said, “You cannot have a pandemic in part of the world and not in others. And for the record, we're very much in the middle of this pandemic. The fact that we have new variants emerging will continue because the virus is circulating."

Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, underscored the economic and social consequences to travel bans, “particularly blanket travel bans.” He said, “But there are circumstances in which in modifying travel, in reducing travel and in adding more checks within the process of travel can help to reduce or at least delay the spread of some disease. But that in no way, in no way should be even used as a single measure."
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