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Infectious diseases ‘clear and present danger’ everywhere

A healthcare worker at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute in Thailand.
UN Women/Pathumporn Thongking
A healthcare worker at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute in Thailand.

Infectious diseases ‘clear and present danger’ everywhere


COVID-19 continues to demonstrate how quickly “an infectious disease can sweep across the world”, pushing health systems to the brink and upending daily life for all of humanity, the UN chief said on Monday, marking the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness.

“It also revealed our failure to learn the lessons of recent health emergencies like SARS, avian influenza, Zika, Ebola and others”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message.

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“And it reminded us that the world remains woefully unprepared to stop localized outbreaks from spilling across borders, and spiraling into a global pandemic”.

Halting infectious diseases

Noting that infectious diseases remain “a clear and present danger to every country”, Mr. Guterres maintained COVID-19 would not be the last pandemic for humanity.

Even as the world responds to this health crisis, he spelled out the need to prepare for the next one.

“This means scaling-up investments in better monitoring, early detection and rapid response plans in every country — especially the most vulnerable”, he said.

“It means strengthening primary health care at the local level to prevent collapse… ensuring equitable access to lifesaving interventions, like vaccines for all people and…achieving Universal Health Coverage.”

The Secretary-General upheld that by building global solidarity, every country would have a fighting chance “to stop infectious diseases in their tracks”.

Battling as one

Earlier in the month, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, welcomed the decision of a special session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) – the UN agency’s top decision-making body – to develop a new global accord on pandemic prevention and response. 

While acknowledging a long road ahead, he described the decision as “cause for celebration, and cause for hope”.

“There are still differences of opinion about what a new accord could or should contain", he said, but the consensus has proven that "differences can be overcome, and common ground can be found”, the WHO chief said

Spreading like wildfire

Meanwhile, as cases of the new Omicron variant continue to spread like wildfire, 70 per cent of COVID vaccines have been distributed to the world's ten largest economies, and the poorest countries have received just 0.8 per cent, according to the UN, calling it “not only unjust” but also a threat to the entire planet.

To end this cycle, the Organization underscored that at least 70 per cent of the population in every country must be inoculated, which the UN vaccine strategy aims to achieve by mid-2022.

Although this will require at least 11 billion vaccine doses, it is doable so long as sufficient resources are put into distribution.

“An outbreak anywhere is a potential pandemic everywhere”, said the Secretary-General”.

“On this International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, let’s give this issue the focus, attention and investment it deserves”.