Africa: Who Director-General's Opening Remarks At the Media Briefing On Covid-19 - 1 March 2021

'Today marks Zero Discrimination Day- World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking during the WHO media briefing on March 1, 2021. He welcomed Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire as the first countries to begin Covid-19 vaccination campaigns with doses supplied through COVAX.

Today, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire started vaccinating health workers against COVID-19, becoming the first countries to begin vaccination campaigns with doses supplied through COVAX. A further 11 million doses will be delivered this week.

Between now and the end of May, 237 million doses of vaccines will be allocated to 142 participating economies in COVAX. Tomorrow, COVAX will publish the first round of allocations, covering the majority of economies participating in the COVAX Facility.

In the past week, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 increased for the first time in 7 weeks. Reported cases increased in four of WHO's six regions: the Americas, Europe, South East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Today marks Zero Discrimination Day - a day to draw attention to the numerous barriers that stand between people and the health services they need. And it's a timely reminder of our focus on health equality for World Health Day this year, with the theme of "Building a fairer, healthier world."

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

Today, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire started vaccinating health workers against COVID-19, becoming the first countries to start vaccination campaigns with doses supplied through COVAX.

A further 11 million doses will be delivered this week.

Between now and the end of May, 237 million doses of vaccines will be allocated to 142 participating economies and countries in COVAX.

Tomorrow, COVAX will publish the first round of allocations, covering the majority of economies participating in the COVAX Facility.

It's encouraging to see health workers in lower-income countries starting to be vaccinated, but it's regrettable that this comes almost three months after some of the wealthiest countries started their vaccination campaigns.

And it's regrettable that some countries continue to prioritize vaccinating younger, healthier adults at lower risk of disease in their own populations ahead of health workers and older people elsewhere.

Countries are not in a race with each other, this is a common race against the virus.

We're not asking countries to put their own people at risk. We're asking all countries to be part of a global effort to suppress the virus everywhere.

WHO and our partners in COVAX will continue to work day and night towards our vision of seeing vaccination start in every country within the first 100 days of this year. There are now 40 days left.

We can only realize this vision with the support and cooperation of all partners.

Even as vaccines continue to roll out, we urge all governments and individuals to remember that vaccines alone will not keep you safe.

In the past week, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 increased for the first time in 7 weeks. You remember that I reported the virus was declining for 6 consecutive weeks, but for the first time in 7 weeks, we have an increase.

Reported cases increased in four of WHO's six regions: the Americas, Europe, South East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean - so we don't report increases in Africa and the Western Pacific.

This is disappointing, but not surprising.

We're working to better understand these increases in transmission.

Some of it appears to be due to relaxing of public health measures, continued circulation of variants, and people letting down their guard.

Vaccines will help to save lives, but if countries rely solely on vaccines, they're making a mistake.

Basic public health measures remain the foundation of the response.

For public health authorities, that means testing, contact tracing, isolation, supported quarantine and quality care.

For individuals, it means avoiding crowds, physical distancing, hand hygiene, masks and ventilation.

This is a global crisis that requires a consistent and coordinated global response.

And we must remember that for millions of people, COVID-19 is just one threat they face on a daily basis.

As I mentioned on Friday, today Sweden, Switzerland and the United Nations are hosting a High-Level Pledging Event for Yemen, seeking to raise more than US$3.8 billion, for more than 20 million Yemenis in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

More than 5 million people are now at risk of famine. And already, half a million children under five could die from hunger in the coming weeks, unless they receive urgent treatment.

We thank those donors who have made contributions so far. These contributions must be sustained.

We are also concerned about the reported arrest of health workers in Myanmar that could affect the response to COVID-19 and the delivery of other essential health services.

And in Ethiopia, the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region has put many health facilities and hospitals out of action.

We are deeply concerned about the risk of diseases due to lack of food, clean water, shelter and access to health care.

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Finally, today marks Zero Discrimination Day - a day to draw attention to the numerous barriers that stand between people and the health services they need.

All over the world, inequality, stigma and discrimination are, and have always been, drivers of diseases of all kinds.

And it's a timely reminder of our focus on health equality for World Health Day this year, with the theme of "Building a fairer, healthier world."

Ultimately, health is not just a matter of science and medicine - it's a matter of human rights.

Christian, back to you.

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