WHO holds emergency meeting over virus variants
Published : Thursday, 14 January, 2021 at 11:47 PM Count : 109
The World Health Organization’s emergency committee met, two weeks early, on Thursday to discuss the urgent threat from rapidly-spreading new coronavirus variants.
Newly identified mutations of the virus, which appear to be significantly more infectious, come as spiking case numbers force many countries to enforce new restrictions.
The committee normally gathers every three months but the WHO brought the meeting forward to discuss the mutations.
“There are two urgent issues which need particular attention, and for which we seek your advice,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told members, in his opening remarks.
“The first is the recent emergence of new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; and the second is the potential use of vaccination and testing certificates for international travel.
“One theme ties both issues together: solidarity. We cannot afford to prioritise or punish certain groups or countries.”
It is the WHO International Health Regulations emergency committee’s sixth meeting on Covid-19.
Following its second meeting on January 30 last year, Tedros declared that the outbreak discovered in China constituted a public health emergency of international concern — the WHO’s highest level of alert.
The latest meeting comes as global infections soared past 92 million and deaths approached two million, with governments around the world reimposing painful economic lockdowns and social restrictions.
“When you first met almost a year ago, just 557 cases of the disease we now call Covid-19 had been reported to WHO,” Tedros lamented.