WHO Live Updates: World Health Organization Discusses Latest COVID-19 Developments

Live Updates

The World Health Organization held a press briefing Friday to address the spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant, vaccine inequity and how people globally can act to end the pandemic.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general for the WHO, said during the conference that the organization expects global cases of COVID-19 to surpass 200 million within the next two weeks. He stated that the world has all the tools and capability it needs to end the virus, but it "will end when the world chooses to end it."

Ghebreyesus also spoke about the persistence of vaccine inequity that the WHO began expressing concern about nearly a year ago. Ghebreyesus said that the WHO again warned in November of 2020 that the poorer populations of the world could be "trampled in the stampede of vaccines," and once more in January of 2021 cautioned that the world was on 'the verge of a catastrophic moral failure,"

"And yet, the global distribution of vaccines remains unjust," Ghebreyesus said.

This is especially true in Africa, which has only seen 2% of all the vaccines administered globally. Ghebreyesus described Africa as one of the most at-risk places in the world from the virus, reporting an 80% increase in deaths in over the last four weeks.

Despite the continent being ready to roll out vaccines to the population, it lacks the supplies to do so, he said.

Dr. Michael Ryan, an infectious disease epidemiologist, affirmed that there will be no "magic solutions" to ending COVID-19. Dr. Maria Van Kerkove, another epidemiologist, said that the initiatives global health leaders have been pushing for moths, such as vaccines, wearing masks and testing, remain the keys to battling the pandemic.

The live updates for this event have ended.

Libya COVID Testing Queue
The WHO director-general said during a press conference Friday that only 2% of vaccines administered globally were in Africa, contributing to an overriding issue of vaccine inequity. People queue as they arrive outside a make-shift COVID-19 coronavirus vaccination and testing centre erected at the Martyrs' Square of Libya's capital Tripoli on July 24, 2021. Mahmud Turkia/AFP via Getty Images

WHO COVID Origins Investigation 'Has Always Been Driven By Science'

Dr. Michael Ryan, an infectious disease epidemiologist, said during a press conference Friday that the WHO's investigation into COVID-19 origins "is still" and "has always been driven by science."

Ryan said that the WHO's Chinese colleagues are implementing "many, many" studies to investigate the origins of the virus and warned not to "politicize the process."

"The [director-general] has tried to steer a path that has been driven by science, by evidence, taking no sides and trying to reach the objectives that we all want: to control COVID-19, to establish the origins of the virus and put in place what measures we can to prevent a further reemergence of a similar virus," Ryan said.

WHO Warned of 'Catastrophic Moral Failure' in Vaccine Distribution in January

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a Friday news conference that the organization began to express concern about the "trend of vaccine nationalism" nearly a year ago.

The WHO again warned in November of 2020 that the poorer populations of the world could be "trampled in the stampede of vaccines," and once more in January of 2021 cautioned that the world was on 'the verge of a catastrophic moral failure."

"And yet, the global distribution of vaccines remains unjust," Ghebreyesus said.

Ghebreyesus stated that the WHO's goal is to vaccinate at least 10% of every country by the end of September and at least 40% by the end of the year.

"We're a long way [from] achieving those targets. So far, just over half of countries have fully vaccinated 10% of their population, less than a quarter of countries have vaccinated 40% and only three countries have vaccinated 70%," Ghebreyesus said.

WHO Announced Letter of Intent to Boost Vaccine Manufacturing in South Africa

The WHO announced during a news conference Friday that it had signed a letter of intent with other partners to boost vaccine manufacturing in South Africa in an effort to address global vaccine imbalances.

Together, the partners plan to establish an mRNA technology transfer hub to "allow for greater and more diversified vaccines manufacturing capability, strengthen African regional health security and respond more equitably to the current COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemics," according to a press release.

"Inequitable manufacturing and distribution of vaccines is behind the wave of death, which is now sweeping across many low- and middle-income countries that have been starved of vaccine supply," said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist of the WHO, in the release. "Building vaccine manufacturing capacity in South Africa is the first step in a broader effort to boost local production to address health emergencies and strengthen regional health security."

Other signers of the letter include the Medicines Patent Pool, Afrigen Biologics, the Biologicals and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa, the South African Medical Research Council and Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No 'Magic Solutions' to Ending COVID-19, Epidemiologists Say

There will be no "magic solutions" to ending COVID-19, according to two infectious disease epidemiologists who spoke at the WHO briefing Friday.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkove said that the initiatives global health leaders have been pushing for moths, such as vaccines, wearing masks and testing, remain the keys to battling the pandemic.

Kerkove also said that while the delta variant is the "most transmissible" variant to date, it won't be the last variant the WHO will have to address.

"We're all in kindergarten when it comes to this virus," said Dr. Michael Ryan, the other epidemiologist.

Ryan deemed the delta variant as a "call to action" since on average one person with the variant will infect additional people.

During his opening remarks, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for more surveillance, research and development when it comes to the virus. However, he affirmed that the pandemic "will end when the world chooses to end it."

"The question is not whether the world can afford to make these investments, it's whether the world can afford not to," he said.

Just 2 Percent of Vaccines Administered Globally Were in Africa: WHO Director-General

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that only 2% of vaccines administered globally were in the entire continent of Africa, contributing to an overriding issue of vaccine inequity.

Ghebreyesus described Africa as one of the most at-risk places in the world from the virus, reporting an 80% increase in deaths in over the last four weeks. Despite the continent being ready to roll out vaccines to the population, it lacks the supplies to do so, he said.

Health systems in many countries are currently being overwhelmed by people with the virus, leading to shortfalls in treatment and supplies like life-saving oxygen.

COVID Testing in South Africa
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa on June 27, 2021 reimposed restrictions for two weeks to combat a surge in the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant. Health workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) prepares to test a woman for COVID-19 at the Fourways Life Hospital in Johannesburg on June 28, 2021. Emmanuel Croset/AFP via Getty Images

Japan and International Olympic Committee 'Did Their Best': WHO Director-General

While speaking about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics during a news conference Friday, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that Japan and the International Olympic Committee "have done their best."

Ghebreyesus was able to attend the opening ceremony for the Olympics and address the IOC, and he said that these games will be "a reminder to the world of the pandemic for generations to come."

The 2020 Olympics have been controversial among the citizens of Japan and others who worry that the event will further endanger the world from the virus.

However, Ghebreyesus believes that the Olympics show the world's "determination to fight back" during a time when "we're taken hostage by a dangerous virus."

Global COVID-19 Cases Expected to Surpass 200 Million Within Next 2 Weeks: WHO

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general for the World Health Organization, said during a news conference Friday that the organization expects global cases of COVID-19 to surpass 200 million within the next two weeks.

This number, he said, is still an underestimation.

Ghebreyesus said that the world has all the tools and capability it needs to end the virus, but it "will end when the world chooses to end it."