Opening remarks by WHO Director-General at the press conference on COVID-19 – 8 June 2022


Hello, good afternoon or good evening.

Globally, the number of reported cases and deaths due to COVID-19 continues to decline.

This is clearly a very encouraging trend, as rising vaccination rates are saving lives, but WHO continues to call for caution.

Worldwide, the number of screening tests and vaccines given is not enough.

On average, about three-quarters of health workers and people over the age of 60 in the world have been vaccinated.

But these rates are much lower in low-income countries.

Nearly 18 months after the first vaccine was administered, 68 countries still did not reach 40% coverage.

Vaccine supply is now sufficient, however demand is lacking in many countries where vaccination rates are lowest.

WHO and its partners are working with countries to stimulate the effective use of vaccines by delivering them to populations wherever they are, through mobile units, door-to-door campaigns and mobilizing community leaders.

The feeling that the pandemic is over is understandable, but wrong.

More than seven thousand people lost their lives to the virus last week, seven thousand too many.

An even more dangerous new variant could appear at any time, and many people remain unprotected.

The pandemic is not over, and we will continue to say so until it is over.

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WHO also continues to monitor reports of hepatitis in children.

More than 700 probable cases have been reported to WHO by 34 countries, and another 112 cases are under investigation.

Of these cases, at least 38 children needed a liver transplant and 10 died.

WHO continues to work with countries to investigate the cause of hepatitis in these children.

To date, the five hepatitis viruses have not been detected in any of these cases.

WHO receives notifications of unexplained hepatitis in children each year, but a few countries have indicated that the rates observed are higher than expected.

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Now let’s move on to monkeypox.

More than a thousand confirmed cases of monkeypox have now been reported to WHO by 29 non-disease-endemic countries. To date, no deaths have been reported in these countries.

Cases have been reported primarily, but not exclusively, in men who have sex with men. Some countries are now beginning to report cases of apparent community transmission, including some cases in women.

The sudden and unexpected onset of monkeypox in several non-disease-endemic countries suggests that there may have been undetected transmission for some time. How long? We don’t know.

There is a real risk that smallpox will become an established disease in countries that are not endemic. The WHO is particularly concerned about the risks posed by this virus to vulnerable groups, including children and pregnant women.

But this scenario can be avoided. WHO urges affected countries to make every effort to seek all cases and contacts in order to control this outbreak and prevent its spread.

To support countries, WHO has issued guidelines for monitoring, contact finding, and laboratory testing and diagnosis.

In the coming days, we will also publish guidelines on clinical care, infection control, vaccination and other guidelines for community protection.

Last week, WHO held a consultation with more than 500 researchers to review current and still unknown knowledge, and to identify research priorities.

We also work with UNAIDS, civil society organizations and men’s communities who have sex with men to listen to their questions and provide information on what monkeypox is and how to avoid it.

There are effective ways for people to protect themselves and others – people with symptoms should isolate themselves at home and consult a health worker. Those who live with an infected person should avoid close contact.

There are approved smallpox antivirals and vaccines, but stocks are limited. WHO is developing a coordination mechanism for the distribution of supplies according to public health needs and with due regard for equity.

The WHO does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox.

In the few places where vaccines are available, they are used to protect those who may be exposed, such as health workers and laboratory staff.

Post-exposure vaccination, ideally within four days of exposure, may be considered by some countries for close contact at higher risk, such as sexual partners, cohabiting family members, and agents. health.

There is a clear concern that monkeypox is spreading to countries where it has never been seen before.

At the same time, we must remember that so far this year there have been more than one thousand four hundred suspected cases of monkeypox in Africa and 66 deaths.

This virus has been circulating and killing in Africa for decades. It is an unfortunate reflection of the world we live in that the international community only pays attention to monkeypox because it has appeared in high-income countries.

Communities that live with the threat of this virus every day deserve the same concern, the same care, and the same access to tools to protect themselves.

Christian, it’s up to you.

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