World must prepare for disease even deadlier than Covid, WHO chief says in stark warning

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A top health chief has warned that the world should prepare for another virus “even deadlier” than coronavirus.

The world should prepare for another virus “even deadlier” than Covid, according to a top health chief. Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organisation gave the stark warning during a meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

Dr Tedros told the meeting that while the world has come out of a “long, dark tunnel” following the coronavirus pandemic, people should not carry on as they did before the virus hit. He added: “The world was taken by surprise and found unprepared for the Covid-19 pandemic, the most severe health crisis in a century.

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“Over the past three years, Covid-19 has turned our world upside down. Almost seven million deaths have been reported, but we know the toll is several times higher, at least 20 million. The pandemic has caused severe disruption to health systems, and severe economic, social and political upheaval.

“Covid-19 has changed our world, and it must.” Dr Tedros went on to say that there is the threat of an “even deadlier” pathogen emerging than Covid.

“The threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains. And the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains,” he said. “We cannot kick this can down the road. If we do not make the changes that must be made, then who will?

“And if we do not make them now, then when? When the next pandemic comes knocking – and it will – we must be ready to answer decisively, collectively and equitably.”

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The coronavirus pandemic broke out in the UK in March 2020 and sparked three lockdowns. Earlier this month, the WHO declared the virus was no “longer a global health emergency”.

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But Dr Tedros said that Covid remains a problem, just not on the same scale as before.“To be clear, Covid-19 is still with us, it still kills, it’s still changing, and it still demands our attention - but it no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern,” he added.

A woman wears a face mask while walking on Oxford Street durng the height of the coronavirus pandemic.A woman wears a face mask while walking on Oxford Street durng the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
A woman wears a face mask while walking on Oxford Street durng the height of the coronavirus pandemic. | Getty Images

“The end of Covid-19 as a global health emergency is not just the end of a bad dream from which we have woken. We cannot simply carry on as we did before.

“This is a moment to look behind us and remember the darkness of the tunnel, and then to look forward, and to move forward in the light of the many painful lessons it has taught us. Chief among those lessons is that we can only face shared threats with a shared response.”

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