Jun. 26, 2021

Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 25 June 2021

Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 25 June 2021
25 June 2021
Delta is the most transmissible of the variants identified so far, has been identified in at least 85 countries, and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations. As some countries ease public health and social measures, we are starting to see increases in transmission around the world.
It’s quite simple: more transmission, more variants. Less transmission, less variants.
One of the most important ways WHO coordinates the response to COVID-19 and other emergencies is through our global network of emergency medical teams.
Globally, WHO has certified teams from 20 countries, who have gone through a rigorous process of quality assurance to ensure they meet internationally agreed standards.
On Wednesday, a market outside the city of Mekelle in the Tigray region of Ethiopia was bombed, killing and wounding civilians. WHO is currently providing life-saving trauma and surgical supplies to a hospital that is treating survivors.
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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

I know that globally there is currently a lot of concern about the Delta variant, and WHO is concerned about it too.

Delta is the most transmissible of the variants identified so far, has been identified in at least 85 countries, and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations.

As some countries ease public health and social measures, we are starting to see increases in transmission around the world.

More cases means more hospitalizations, further stretching health workers and health systems, which increases the risk of death.

As we have said, new variants are expected and will continue to be reported – that’s what viruses do, they evolve - but we can prevent the emergence of variants by preventing transmission.

It’s quite simple: more transmission, more variants. Less transmission, less variants.

That makes it even more urgent that we use all the tools at our disposal to prevent transmission: the tailored and consistent use of public health and social measures, in combination with equitable vaccination.

This is why WHO has been saying for at least a year that vaccines must be distributed equitably, to protect health workers and the most vulnerable.

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Over the past 18 months, WHO staff all over the world have done an amazing job supporting countries to respond to COVID-19.

But WHO cannot be everywhere, and we can’t do everything.

One of the most important ways WHO coordinates the response to COVID-19 and other emergencies is through our global network of emergency medical teams.

Emergency Medical Teams, or EMTs, are groups of health professionals, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, support workers and logisticians, who provide care for patients affected by an emergency.

EMTs are made up of dedicated professionals who have permission to take time away from their regular jobs to respond to emergencies, either nationally or internationally.

When emergencies strike, EMTs are mobilized to support the national response, treat patients, provide training and supervision, strengthen coordination, and ensure standards are met for quality of care.

Globally, WHO has certified teams from 20 countries, who have gone through a rigorous process of quality assurance to ensure they meet internationally agreed standards.

A further 87 countries either have teams that are in the process of being certified by WHO, or are developing systems to quality-assure their own national teams.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, WHO has facilitated the deployment of over 108 international EMTs and experts worldwide.

These teams have provided specialized care to patients, additional bed capacity, and advice for local health providers on case management.

Some of the most recent deployments of emergency medical teams were in Djibouti, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Costa Rica.

In Lebanon, nine EMTs were deployed following the blasts in

Beirut last year, to treat patients, re-establish maternal and child care, and to support COVID-19 care at public hospitals.

In Greece, teams from Norway and Germany were deployed following a fire at a refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, to support the COVID-19 response, together with other essential health services.

Last week, WHO and partners published new standards for the deployment of emergency medical teams in a range of situations, from natural disasters to epidemics and conflict situations.

This represents a major step forward in ensuring emergency medical teams meet shared standards for quality of care, whether they are deployed nationally or internationally.

To say more about WHO’s Emergency Medical Teams Initiative, I’m delighted to welcome Ambassador Toni Frisch, the Chair of the Emergency Medical Team Strategic Advisory Group.

Toni Frisch has played a critical role in guiding the EMT Initiative over many years.

Toni, welcome, and you have the floor.

[AMBASSADOR FRISCH ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]

Thank you, Ambassador, and thank you so much for your leadership for this vital initiative.

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On Wednesday, a market outside the city of Mekelle in the Tigray region of Ethiopia was bombed, killing and wounding civilians.

Ambulances were blocked for more than a day from attending the scene and evacuating the wounded for medical care.

WHO is currently providing life-saving trauma and surgical supplies to a hospital that is treating survivors who were able to reach care.

Attacks on civilians anywhere are completely unacceptable, and so is denying them access to immediate care because we lose lives.

Tarik, back to you.