WHO: COVID lies hampering future pandemic preparedness

Misinformation and disinformation relating to COVID-19 are undermining efforts to keep the world safe from future pandemics, according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The call comes as a report surfaced this week in the Washington Post that the US has cut funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology over its failure to hand over key documentation concerning its work on coronaviruses.

He drew comparisons with the efforts by the tobacco industry to derail negotiations at the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

“The same thing is happening now. Groups with vested interests are claiming falsely that the accord is a power grab by WHO, and that it will stymie innovation and research. Both claims are completely false,” Tedros said, referring to the WHO’s pandemic accord.

The pandemic accord aims to promote solidarity and equity among countries in forging an effective pandemic response. Negotiations on the document are held at the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), which was established by WHO members at the World Health Assembly.

WHO provides secretariat support to the INB, supporting the organisation of the meetings and facilitating participation of experts, UN agencies, and other stakeholders.

“I need to put this plainly: those who peddle lies about this historic agreement are endangering the health and safety of future generations.”

The head of WHO also emphasised that the agreement is between countries, and countries alone. WHO will not be a party,” he said, noting that If two companies enter into a business contract, and use lawyers to help them develop it, “that doesn’t give the lawyers control over the contract, nor make the lawyers a party to it. It’s the same here.”

Tedros also urged everyone not to let their guard down against COVID-19, as cases and deaths continue to be reported from around the world.

“WHO continues to advise people at high risk to wear a mask in crowded places, to get boosters when recommended, and to ensure adequate ventilation indoors,” he said, appealing to governments to not dismantle the systems established to combat the COVID-19 pandemic but rather to uphold and sustain them.

He also highlighted that extreme heat, driven by the El Niño weather pattern and climate change, is amplifying pre-existing conditions and putting increased pressure on health systems.

“Extreme heat takes the greatest toll on those least able to manage its consequences, such as older people, infants and children, and the poor and homeless,” he said.

In collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), WHO is supporting countries to develop heat health action plans to coordinate preparedness and reduce the impacts of excessive heat on health.

The call comes as a report surfaced this week in the Washington Post that the US has cut funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology over its failure to hand over key documentation concerning its work on coronaviruses.

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