WHO Director-General's Opening Remarks At The Member State Briefing On COVID-19 - 11 June 2020

- Jun 13, 2020-

Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Thank you for joining today’s briefing.  

Today, we are fortunate to have a visit from   Dr Seth Berkley, the Chief Executive Officer of GAVI. 

I would like to thank the United Kingdom for hosting the GAVI replenishment last week, and to thank all Member States who so generously supported GAVI’s replenishment. Thank you for the investment you have made in saving lives from vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Shortly, Seth will speak about a new initiative to improve access to vaccines for countries with limited resources.

We will also have presentations from Member States from across our six WHO regions who will tell us about their experiences – and even successes – in dealing with COVID-19. 

Today we are hearing from New Zealand, Bangladesh, Oman, Norway, Botswana, and Cuba.  


First, a brief update from me:

More than 7 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported, and more than 408,000 deaths.

Although the situation in Europe is improving, at the global level, it is getting worse.

More than 100,000 new cases have been reported each day for the most part of the past two weeks.

Almost 75% of recent cases come from 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia.

Many countries in the African region are also experiencing an increase, although so far, in most, the caseload is still relatively small.

We also see increasing numbers of cases in parts of Eastern Europe and central Asia.

At the same time, we are encouraged that some countries around the world are seeing positive signs.

The biggest threat now is complacency. Studies show that most people are still susceptible to infection.

Countries must continue with active surveillance to ensure the virus does not rebound, especially as mass gatherings of all kinds are starting to resume.

Without proper safeguards and monitoring, a resurgence is a real threat.

So-called lockdown measures have been successful in many countries in slowing transmission.

To actually stop transmission, countries must have a comprehensive approach: find, isolate, test and care for every case, and trace and quarantine every contact.

WHO is continuing to support countries in many ways, including the COVID-19 Partners Platform, which is a kind of “matchmaking” tool for countries.

The Partners Platform enables countries to enter planned activities for which they need support, and allows donors to match their contributions to these activities.

So far, 105 national plans have been uploaded, and 56 donors have entered their contributions, totaling US$ 3.9 billion.

The platform also includes the COVID-19 Supply Portal, enabling countries to request critical supplies of diagnostics, protective equipment and other essential medical provisions.

WHO is now in the process of shipping more than 129 million items of personal protective equipment to 126 countries.

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As you know, one of my priorities since taking office 3 years ago has been to overhaul WHO’s intern programme to increase the number of interns from low- and middle-income countries.

Yesterday I held a virtual meeting with some of our interns, and

I’m really glad to see that the diversity of our interns has improved significantly.

As you know, this year we started paying a stipend to interns, which has opened up the internship programme to young people who would otherwise not be able to afford it. And thank you so much for the resolution last year that helped us to take this action. 

We’re committed to investing in young health leaders, who will play a major role in building strong, resilient health systems in all Member States in the years to come.

Once again, thank you all for your participation today, and for your continued solidarity in the response to COVID-19.