The World Health Organization chief opened the agency’s annual World Health Assembly in Geneva Monday by paying tribute to the 115,000 health care workers around the world who lost their lives fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his comments to the WHO decision-making body, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world’s health and care workers have stood in the breach between life and death for nearly 18 months. He said they have saved countless lives and fought for others who, despite their best efforts, slipped away.
Tedros said he was pleased numbers of new cases and deaths had fallen for three straight weeks, but cautioned the world remains in a very dangerous situation.
He said, “We must be very clear: the pandemic is not over, and it will not be over until and unless transmission is controlled in every last country.”
The WHO chief again criticized the world’s wealthiest nations for what he called the “scandalous inequity” in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines that is “perpetuating the pandemic.” He noted more than 75 percent of all vaccine doses have been administered in just 10 countries.
He called on member nations to support a massive push to vaccinate at least 10 percent of the population of every country by September, and a “drive to December” to vaccinate at least 30 percent by the end of the year.
Taiwan criticize WHO 'indifference'
Earlier, Taiwan criticized what it calls the “indifference” of the WHO to the health rights of the island’s people. Taiwan was not invited to the World Health Assembly because it says the WHO has given into pressure from China.
In a joint statement, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said “As a professional international health body, the World Health Organization should serve the health and welfare of all humanity and not capitulate to the political interests of a certain member.”
Taiwan is excluded from most international organizations like the WHO because of objections from China, which considers the self-governing island to be part its territory and not an independent country.
On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that three scientists from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, or WIV, in Wuhan, China were admitted to the hospital in November 2019 — a month before China confirmed its first coronavirus case. The news will likely add fuel to the theory that the virus may have escaped a Chinese laboratory.
India at over 300,000 deaths
India became the third country Monday to surpass 300,000 deaths related to COVID-19, after the health ministry reported more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in the previous 24 hours. The U.S. has recorded nearly 590,000 deaths, while Brazil is approaching 450,000. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports 3.4 million global COVID-19 deaths.
Also Monday, India reported 222,315 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24-hour period, a significant drop for the South Asian nation that was experiencing more than 400,000 new daily infections just a few weeks ago. However, public health officials believe that India’s toll is likely undercounted because of limited testing resources.
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Monday 167 million global COVID-19 infections. The U.S. has more infections than any other country at 33 million cases. India is next with 26.7 million, while Brazil is ranked third with 16 million.