Jul. 15, 2021

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 15 July 2021


I would especially like to express my concern and condolences over the floods that are currently affecting Germany. I offer my deep condolences to those who have lost someone they love, and my sincere hopes that those who are missing will be found soon.
Since 2020, Germany contributed close to 750 million US dollars to WHO, including more than 500 million dollars to support the COVID-19 response. Germany was also one of the main drivers behind the formation of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator last year, and we are very grateful for the further contribution of 260 million euros and 30 million vaccine doses that Minister Spahn has just announced. We will be signing the agreement under the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response plan after today’s press conference.
As you know, the WHO Emergency Committee met yesterday and will publish its statement shortly. The Committee has expressed concern that the pandemic is being mischaracterized as coming to an end when it is nowhere near finished. It has also warned about the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control.
The Committee also expressed deep concern about the level of funding for WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19, which constrains WHO’s ability to coordinate the global response to the pandemic, particularly in terms of having the flexibility we need to move at the speed this virus moves. And the committee has called on all countries to support WHO’s call to vaccinate at least 10% of the population of every country by the end of September.
-----------------------------------------------------

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening – or should I say guten morgen und guten abend.

Thank you for joining us today, and I would like to say herzlich willkommen to my friend Jens Spahn, the Federal Minister of Health of Germany.

And may I add, vielen dank, Jens, for your personal support over the past few years, and especially the past difficult 18 months, and for the incredible support of the German government and people for WHO, and for global health.

I would especially like to express my concern and condolences over the floods that are currently affecting Germany. I offer my deep condolences to those who have lost someone they love, and my sincere hopes that those who are missing will be found soon.

So welcome once again, and I would like to invite you to make your opening comments.

[MINISTER SPAHN ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]

Thank you so much, and vielen dank, Jens. As I think everyone knows, Germany has been one of the leading lights in the fight against the pandemic globally, under your leadership and that of Chancellor Merkel.

Since 2020, Germany has contributed close to 750 million US dollars to WHO, including more than 500 million dollars to support the COVID-19 response. As the Minister said, Germany is the largest contributor to WHO.

Germany was also one of the main drivers behind the formation of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator last year, and we are very grateful for the further contribution of 260 million euros and 30 million vaccine doses that Minister Spahn has just announced. We will be signing the agreement under the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response plan after today’s press conference.

This support comes at a critical time, with cases and deaths increasing globally.

As you know, the WHO Emergency Committee met yesterday and will publish its statement shortly, and I would like to thank Professor Didier Houssin, the Chair of the Committee, for his leadership, and for joining us today.

The Committee has expressed concern that the pandemic is being mischaracterized as coming to an end when it is nowhere near finished.

It has also warned about the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control.

The Committee also expressed deep concern about the level of funding for WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19, which constrains WHO’s ability to coordinate the global response to the pandemic, particularly in terms of having the flexibility we need to move at the speed this virus moves.

And the committee has called on all countries to support WHO’s call to vaccinate at least 10% of the population of every country by the end of September.

These donations announced by Germany today are another step towards reaching those targets.

So my heartfelt thanks to Germany; vielen dank.

But what I find even more encouraging is not just Germany’s short-term support, but it’s long-term vision.

Together, we will end this pandemic, but our horizon must be further, and our ambition must be higher, as we work together to prevent, detect and respond rapidly to future outbreaks with pandemic potential.

One of the clear lessons of this pandemic is that the world needs a strong and sustainably resourced WHO at the centre of the global health architecture.

Germany has been a driving force in advocating for a stronger WHO, but also in making it happen. You have truly walked the talk! And there is a big difference between your visit last year and this time.

I also welcome Germany’s support for the idea of an international pandemic treaty. Today, a working group of WHO Member States is meeting to consider this idea and others to strengthen global health security.

If the world continues down the same road, it will continue heading towards the same destination, which is an unsafe world, and another devastating pandemic is inevitable.

We need a new approach, and a new way of doing things.

A treaty would provide a platform for closer international cooperation on preparedness, detection and response.

One key area in which improved cooperation is needed is in the way information about emerging pathogens and outbreaks is collected, analysed and disseminated.

In May, Minister Spahn joined me to announce the creation of a new WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin, which will open in September of this year.

This new initiative will mark a step-change in harnessing the power of modern technologies to give all countries the information they need – more, better, faster – to keep their people safe.

So thank you once again, Minister Spahn, we are in a critical moment, not just in terms of this pandemic, but in terms of the future of global health security.

Germany’s support and collaboration is incredibly valuable.

Thank you, vielen dank.

Before we move to questions, I would like to invite Professor Houssin to make a few remarks about the outcomes of yesterday’s Emergency Committee.