Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ph.D
World Health Organization Opening Statement on COVID-19
delivered 08 April 2020, Geneva, Switzerland
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
Tomorrow marks [one] hundred days since W-H-O was notified of the first cases of "pneumonia with unknown cause" from China. It's incredible to reflect on how dramatically the world has changed in such a short period of time. Today I would like to give an overview of what W-H-O has done in the past [one] hundred days, and what we will be doing in the near future to alleviate suffering and save lives.
On the 1st of January, just hours after we were notified of the first cases, W-H-O activated its Incident Management Support Team to coordinate our response at headquarters, regional and country level.
On the 5th of January, W-H-O officially notified all Member States of this new outbreak, and published a disease outbreak news on our website.
On the 10th of January, we issued a comprehensive package of guidance to
countries on how to detect, test, and manage potential cases, and protect
On the same day, we convened our strategic and technical advisory group
on infectious hazards to review the situation.
We convened the emergency committee on the 22nd of January, and again a week later, after the first cases of human-to-human transmission were reported outside China, and declared a public health emergency of international concern -- our highest level of alarm. At the time there were 98 cases outside China and no deaths.
In February, an international team of experts from Canada, China, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Singapore, and the United States of America visited affected provinces in China to learn more about the virus, the outbreak and the response, and to glean lessons for the rest of the world.
In early February, the United Nations Crisis Management Team was activated, after we discussed with Secretary General António Guterres, to coordinate the entire machinery of the UN to support countries as effectively as possible.
Since then, we have been working day and night in five key areas.
We have worked to support countries in building their capacity to
prepare and respond.
Through W-H-O's network of six regional offices and 150 country offices,
we have worked closely with governments around the world to prepare their
health systems for COVID-19, and to respond when cases arrive.
I would like to thank all donors for their support, including Apple for its contribution of 10 million U.S. dollars. To ensure this money is used where it's needed most, we have set up an online portal to help partners match needed -- needs with funds.
Second: We have worked with numerous partners to provide accurate information and fight the infodemic.1 We have published 50 pieces of technical guidance for the public, health workers, and countries, providing evidence-based advice on every element of the response.
We activated our global expert networks to tap the world's leading epidemiologists, clinicians, social-scientists, statisticians, virologists, risk communicators, and others, to make our response truly global and to capture all the support we need from all over the world, from W-H[-O] experts and from other experts in many of the institutions we have globally.
Our EPI-WIN team has adapted our advice for individuals and communities, health workers, employers and workers, faith-based organizations, and more about how to protect themselves and others.
Through our daily situation reports and these regular press briefings, we have kept -- kept the world informed about the latest data, information, and evidence.
We have held regular briefings with our Member States, to answer their questions and learn from their experiences.
We have worked with numerous media and tech companies, including the [sic] Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Messenger, Pinterest, SnapChat, Tencent, TikTok, Twitter, Viber, WhatsApp, YouTube,2 and more to counter myths and misinformation with reliable, evidence-based advice.
The WhatsApp chatbot now has more than 12 million followers and is available in 7 languages, including Hindi and Portuguese, which are launching today. The Viber chatbot has more than 2 million followers, in three languages and four more to launch next week, reaching out to the citizens of the world, the person in the street, informing them about the latest information we have.
Just in the past two days we convened an online workshop to crowdsource ideas from over 600 experts, institutions, and individuals on ways to combat the infodemic.
We have worked with FIFA and some of the world's biggest sports stars to promote clean hands and physical activity.
And since we announced the One World: Together at Home concert with Lady Gaga and Global Citizen on Monday, more TV networks and online platforms from around the world have contacted us offering the broadcast -- to broadcast the concert. And Lady Gaga had already raised 35 million US dollars [as she informed us] during our conference with her.
Third: We're working hard to ensure supplies of essential medical equipment for frontline health workers. So far, we have shipped more than two million items of personal protective equipment to 133 countries, and we're preparing to ship another two million items in the coming weeks. We have sent more than one million diagnostic tests to 126 countries, in all regions, and we are sourcing more.
But we know much more is needed. This is not enough. So we're working with the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Economic Forum and others in the private sector to ramp up the production and distribution of essential medical supplies.
Today, we're launching the UN COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force3 to dramatically scale up the supply of these life-saving tools, and match supply with needs. And I would like to use this opportunity to thank his -- the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for bringing all the UN agencies [together] to contribute to the Supply Chain Task Force.
We're working to train and mobilize health workers.
More than 1.2 million people have enrolled in 6 courses in 43 languages
on our OpenWHO.org platform. Our target is to train tens of millions,
and we have all the readiness to train tens of millions, hundreds of
millions. Experts have been deployed around the world through W-H-O's
Outbreak Alert and Response Network and our Emergency Medical Teams
To better understand the transmission, epidemiology, and clinical features of the virus, we have developed research protocols that are being used in more than 40 countries, in a coordinated way. We're working with FIND [Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics] to accelerate development and access to diagnostics. Today, 130 scientists, funders, and manufacturers from around the world have signed a statement committing to work with W-H-O to speed the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.
Of course, W-H-O is not alone. [The] UN is not alone. Every day, we work with thousands of partners in the government, academia, the private sector, civil society, and more.
There are many, many other things W-H-O has done in the past hundred days that I haven't mentioned.
These five pillars4 will continue to be the foundation of our work.
In the coming days, W-H-O will be releasing an updated strategy, and a revised Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, with an estimate of the financial needs for the next phase of the response.
Throughout, our focus has been on working with countries and with partners to bring the world together to confront this common threat together. We're especially concerned with protecting the world's poorest and most vulnerable, not just in the poorest countries, but in all countries.
For the past hundred days, our unwavering commitment has been to serve all people of the world with equity, objectivity, and neutrality. And that will continue to be our sole focus in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Finally, this is a special time of year for Christians, Jews, and Muslims around the world. Today, W-H-O has published practical considerations and recommendations for faith-based communities. We know that COVID-19 means billions of believers are not able to celebrate in the way they usually would.
But we wish everyone a safe and joyful Easter, Passover, and Ramadan.
1The term "infodemic" refers to an overabundance of rapidly spreading information. The discursive context here, however, suggests not merely a spate of too much as a torrent of abundant and erroneous (and rapidly spreading) amount of information. Terms for this latter phenomenon include "misinfodemic" and "disinfodemic." These terms are relatively new enough as of this writing (4/14/20) that neither appears in any online dictionary I consulted -- although there are telling hashtags for each. Finally, some may see in "misinfodemic" and "disinfodemic" a conceptual distinction wherein the latter refers to information that is false or misleading by design, akin to propaganda.
2 Enumeratio (of IT items) within enumeratio (the delineating of WHO accomplishments)
3 FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) announced a "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force" for the United States on 30 March 2020.
4 Speculative: A rhetorical attempt at uniting audiences otherwise divided by religious sympathies and interests via terminological allusion to the 5 Pillars of Islam. Viewed through the lens of rhetorical theory, this tactic is a calculated effort to engender a positive state of identification between Islam and WHO's COVID-19 actions within and across adherents of various Muslim sub-traditions.
Original Text Source: WHO.int
Original Audio Source: https://who.canto.global
Original Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2019-nCoV-CDC-23312_without_background.png
Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement
See also: CDC Latest Data and Recommendations
Page Updated: 4/18/20
U.S. Copyright Status: Text = CC BY-NC 3.0 IGO. Text modified for consistency with verbal delivery. Hyperlinks and other items added for additional sense-making options. Audio = Uncertain. Image = Public domain.