Health and Healthcare Systems

6 months on from declaring ‘a public health emergency’, WHO says COVID-19’s future is up to us

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organised by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS - RC2RLH9FW6QX

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, has said we cannot let down our guard. Image: REUTERS

Charlotte Edmond
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Health and Healthcare Systems?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how COVID-19 is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

COVID-19

  • 30 July marks six months since the World Health Organization announced that coronavirus was a global concern.
  • In the half-year since then, worldwide cases are close to 17 million, with more than 660,000 deaths.
  • Ongoing vigilance, social distancing and contact tracing will be key as the virus continues to accelerate and vaccines remain a distant hope.

We have just passed a grim milestone: 30 July marked six months since COVID-19 was first recognised as an issue of international concern.

A lot has changed in that time. Back in January, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency, there were fewer than 100 cases outside of China – and no deaths. Now, close to 17 million cases have been reported around the world, and more than 660,000 deaths.

Have you read?

In a speech acknowledging the landmark, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted the ongoing need for vigilance and preventative measures as the virus continues to accelerate.

“Although our world has changed, the fundamental pillars of the response have not: political leadership and informing, engaging and listening to communities. And nor have the basic measures needed to suppress transmission and save lives: find, isolate, test and care for cases – and trace and quarantine their contacts. Keep your distance from others. Clean your hands, avoid crowded and enclosed areas and wear a mask where recommended.”

The battle to get the virus under control

It’s the sixth time WHO has declared a public health emergency of international concern – the highest level of alarm under international law – but it is “easily the most severe”, said Dr Ghebreyesus.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Fatality rate of major virus outbreaks worldwide in the last 50 years as of 2020. Image: Statista

He highlighted the efforts of countries such as Cambodia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Thailand, Vietnam, and islands in the Pacific and Caribbean in preventing large-scale outbreaks. Meanwhile, Canada, China, Germany and the Republic of Korea have managed to bring outbreaks under control.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

But, while across Europe there has been a relaxation of lockdowns in recent weeks, hotspots in some areas and countries have led to restrictions being reimposed. And there are pockets of outbreaks even in countries which otherwise have the virus under control.

The work to develop vaccines continues at an accelerated pace, with both Moderna and Pfizer launching 30,000 subject trials with a view to progressing to widespread use by the end of the year.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Infection rates of viruses involved in outbreaks worldwide as of 2020. Image: Statista

But with the virus continuing to spread rapidly in many parts of the world, the vaccine can’t come fast enough – and is unlikely to be the panacea. Avoiding the spread through social distancing and contact tracing remains the best weapon in countries’ armouries for now.

Dr Ghebreyesus concluded: “The COVID-19 pandemic is illustrating that health is not a reward for development, it’s the foundation of social, economic and political stability. We are not prisoners of the pandemic. Every single one of us can make a difference. The future is in our hands.”

Loading...
Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Gender and health equity will only come with universal access to eye health – here's why

Dr. Princess Ifeoma Ike

May 24, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum