World not ready for new pandemic, WHO chief warns

The lessons of COVID-19 may be forgotten as the world community's attention is now focused on other crises, but the world is not ready for a new pandemic, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said addressing the World Government Summit in Dubai, News.Az reports citing TASS. 

He stated that mankind will sooner or later face a new unknown "X disease," for which the world needs to prepare itself now.

"The painful lessons we learned are in danger of being forgotten as attention turns to the many other crises confronting our world. But if we fail to learn those lessons, we will pay dearly next time," Ghebreyesus said. According to him, the question is not whether or not a new pandemic will break out, but when it will happen. "And as things stand, the world remains unprepared for the next Disease X, and the next pandemic. If it struck tomorrow, we would face many of the same problems we faced with COVID-19," the director general added. He also noted that a new disease "may be caused by an influenza virus, or a new coronavirus, or it may be caused by a new pathogen we don’t even know about yet." Ghebreyesus recalled that the WHO first used the term "disease X" in 2018 to refer to a disease that experts know nothing about but can make preparations for. "COVID-19 was a Disease X - a new pathogen causing a new disease," he pointed out, noting that the world could still be facing "Disease X, or a Disease Y or a Disease Z" too.

In that regard, Ghebreyesus called on countries to overcome the disagreements that had emerged during the ongoing WHO consultations on the development of an international agreement on pandemic preparedness. The protocol was expected to be submitted to the World Health Assembly for approval in May 2024. However, the finalization of the document has been hampered by disagreements, including fears that parties to the treaty would have to cede some of their sovereignty to the WHO when making decisions on pandemic controls. The Director General has described such claims as unfounded. "The pandemic agreement will not give WHO any power over any state or any individual, for that matter," he concluded.



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