The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that a lack of leadership and solidarity at both national and global levels is “the greatest threat we face now,” rather than the COVID-19 virus itself.
In a speech ahead of a member state briefing in Geneva on Thursday, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed an increasingly urgent call from recent months for global leaders to unite against the spread of the coronavirus.
“Each and every individual should reflect,” he said. “This is a tragedy that is forcing us to miss many of our friends and lose many lives. And we cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world.”
“The virus thrives on division, but is thwarted when we unite,” he continued, describing the pandemic as a “test” of global solidarity and leadership.
“How is it difficult for humans to unite and fight a common enemy that is killing people indiscriminately?” he asked. “Are we unable to distinguish or identify the common enemy? Can’t we understand that the divisions and the cracks between us are an advantage for the virus?”
Dr. Tedros’ speech came just two days after the Trump administration began the official withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organisation — a widely criticised move that will reportedly come into effect in July 2021.
Leading health experts, political leaders, activists, and more, have united in warning that the decision will harm the global effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“Thousands of people have spoken, from health experts to heads of state and heroes on the front lines: the world needs WHO,” Loyce Pace, president and executive director of the Global Health Council, told CNN. “This move signals a dangerous gamble in the midst of a pandemic we have yet to conquer, and without a viable alternative to WHO.”
Meanwhile, it has been reported on Friday that the UK government has decided to opt out of the European Union’s COVID-19 vaccine programme. The government reportedly cited concerns that signing up to the scheme could slow the rollout of a vaccine by up to six months, due to talks about distribution.
The UK government also faced criticism in April, after failing to join an EU procurement scheme for supplies like personal protective equipment (PPE) — including masks, gloves, and gowns — as well as testing kits and ventilators, reported the Guardian.
Ending the COVID-19 pandemic means ending the pandemic for all countries, not just the richest. As highlighted by our Global Goal: Unite for Our Future campaign, it’s essential that everyone, everywhere, has access to the tests, treatments, and vaccines against COVID-19 as they are developed, including the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities.
“My hope is that the defining crisis of our age will likewise remind all people that the best way forward — and the only way forward — is together. These are the basics, but the time-tested truth,” Dr. Tedros concluded in his speech. “‘Together’ is the solution unless we want to give the advantage to the enemy, to the virus, that has taken the world hostage and this has to stop.”