Keynote speech of the Director-General of the World Health Organization at the press conference on COVID-19 – 8 June 2022

Good morning, good evening or good evening.

Globally, the number of reported cases and deaths from COVID-19 continues to decline.

This is clearly a very encouraging trend, and even increased vaccination rates are saving lives, but the World Health Organization continues to urge caution.

In the world, the number of screening tests performed and vaccines administered is insufficient.

On average, around three-quarters of health workers and people over the age of 60 have been vaccinated worldwide.

But these rates are much lower in low-income countries.

Approximately 18 months after the first vaccine was given, coverage in 68 countries has not yet reached 40%.

Vaccine supplies are now sufficient, but demand in many countries with lower vaccination rates is lacking.

WHO and its partners work with countries to promote the effective use of vaccines by getting them where people are, through mobile units, door-to-door campaigns, and mobilizing community leaders.

The feeling that the pandemic is over is understandable, but misleading.

More than seven thousand people lost their lives as a result of this virus last week, which is a very large number up to seven thousand people.

A new, more dangerous variant can emerge at any time, and a large number of people remain unprotected.

The pandemic is not over and we will continue to say that until it is over.

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WHO also continues to monitor reports of cases of hepatitis idiopathic in children.

More than 700 probable cases have been reported to the World Health Organization by 34 countries, and 112 more are under investigation.

Of these cases, at least 38 children required a liver transplant and 10 died.

The World Health Organization continues to work with countries to investigate the cause of hepatitis in these children.

So far, the five hepatitis viruses have not been detected in any of these cases.

The World Health Organization receives reports every year of unexplained hepatitis in children, but a few countries have indicated that the rates observed are higher than expected.

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Now let’s move on to monkeypox.

More than 1,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox have now been reported to WHO from 29 non-endemic countries. So far, no deaths have been reported in these countries.

Cases have been reported primarily, but not exclusively, in men who have sex with men. Some countries are now beginning to report cases of visible transmission in the community, including some in women.

The sudden and unexpected appearance of monkeypox in many non-endemic countries indicates that there may be undetected transmission for some time. How much time ? we do not know.

There is a real risk that monkeypox will become a stable disease in non-endemic countries. The World Health Organization is particularly concerned about the risks this virus poses to vulnerable groups, including children and pregnant women.

But this scenario can be avoided. WHO urges affected countries to do their utmost to trace all cases and contacts to control this outbreak and prevent its spread.

To support countries, WHO has published guidance on surveillance, contact tracing, laboratory testing and diagnosis.

Over the next few days, we will also publish guidance on clinical care, infection control, immunization and other guidance related to protecting the community.

Last week, the World Health Organization held consultations with more than 500 researchers to review what is known and still unknown, and to set research priorities.

We also work with UNAIDS, civil society organizations and MSM communities to hear their questions and provide information about what monkeypox is and how to prevent it.

There are effective ways to protect themselves and others – people with symptoms should self-isolate at home and see a health worker. Those who live with an infected person should avoid close contact.

There are approved antivirals and vaccines for monkeypox, but supplies are limited. WHO is developing a coordination mechanism to distribute supplies based on public health and equity needs.

The World Health Organization does not recommend universal vaccination against monkeypox.

In the few places where vaccines are available, they are used to protect those who might be exposed, such as health workers and laboratory workers.

Some countries may consider vaccination after exposure, ideally within four days of exposure, to close contacts at higher risk, such as sexual partners, family members living together, and health factors.

It is clearly a cause for concern that monkeypox is spreading to countries like never before.

At the same time, it should be remembered that so far this year there have been more than one thousand four hundred suspected cases of monkeypox in Africa and 66 deaths.

This virus has been spreading and killing in Africa for decades. It is an unfortunate reflection of the world we live in where the international community is paying attention to monkeypox only because it has appeared in high-income countries.

Communities that live with the threat of this virus every day deserve the same attention, the same care, and the same access to tools to protect themselves.

Christian, it’s up to you.

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