WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the COVID-19 media briefing– 8 June 2022

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening,

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

This is clearly a very encouraging trend – increasing vaccination rates are saving lives – but WHO continues to urge caution.

Globally, there is not enough testing, and not enough vaccination.

On average, about three-quarters of health workers and people aged over 60 globally have been vaccinated.

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

Almost 18 months since the first vaccine was administered, 68 countries have still not achieved 40% coverage.

Vaccine supply is now sufficient, but demand in many countries with the lowest vaccination rates is lacking.

WHO and our partners are working with countries to drive uptake by getting vaccines to where people are, through mobile units, door-to-door campaigns and by mobilizing community leaders.

The perception that the pandemic is over is understandable, but misguided.

More than seven thousand people lost their lives to this virus last week – that’s seven thousand too many.

A new and even more dangerous variant could emerge at any time, and vast numbers of people remain unprotected.

The pandemic is not over, and we will keep saying it’s not over until it is.

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WHO is also continuing to monitor reports of hepatitis of unknown cause in children.

More than 700 probable cases have now been reported to WHO from 34 countries, and a further 112 cases are under investigation.

At least 38 of these children have needed liver transplants, and 10 have died.

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

So far, the five viruses that commonly cause hepatitis have not been detected in any of these cases.

WHO receives reports of unexplained hepatitis in children every year, but a few countries have indicated that the rates they are seeing are above what is expected.

Now to monkeypox.

More than one thousand confirmed cases of monkeypox have now been reported to WHO from 29 countries that are not endemic for the disease. So far, no deaths have been reported in these countries.

Cases have been reported mainly, but not only, among 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 appearance of monkeypox in several non-endemic countries suggests that there might have been undetected transmission for some time. How long, we don’t know.

The risk of monkeypox becoming established in non-endemic countries is real. WHO is particularly concerned about the risks of this virus for vulnerable groups including children and pregnant women.

But that scenario can be prevented. WHO urges affected countries to make every effort to identify all cases and contacts to control this outbreak and prevent onward spread.

To support countries, WHO has issued guidance on surveillance and contact tracing, and laboratory testing and diagnosis.

In the coming days, we will also issue guidance on clinical care, infection prevention and control, vaccination, and further guidance on community protection.

Last week, WHO hosted a consultation with more than 500 researchers to review what we know and don’t know, and to identify research priorities.

We’re also working with UNAIDS, civil society organizations and communities of men 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 at home and consult a health worker. Those who share a household with an infected person should avoid close contact.

There are antivirals and vaccines approved for monkeypox, but these are in limited supply. WHO is developing a coordination mechanism for the distribution of supplies based on public health needs and fairness.

WHO does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox.

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

Post-exposure vaccination, ideally within four days of exposure, may be considered by some countries for higher-risk close contacts, such as sexual partners, family members in the same household and health workers.

It’s clearly concerning that monkeypox is spreading in countries where it has not 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’s an unfortunate reflection of the world we live in that the international community is only now paying attention to monkeypox because it has appeared in high-income countries.

The 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, back you to you.

Source: World Health Organization

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