Tokyo, Jul 21 (EFE).- The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that the mark of success of the Olympic Games would not be zero Covid-19 cases, but that they “are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible, and onward transmission is interrupted” and called for applying the Olympic motto of “faster, higher, stronger – together” to vaccination campaigns.
“In the 125-year history of the modern games, they have been held in the shadow of war, economic crisis and geopolitical turmoil,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his keynote speech at the 138th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in Tokyo.
“But never before have they been organized in the shadow of a pandemic. And although Covid-19 might have postponed the games, it has not defeated them,” he added.
“Over the next two weeks, and for the Paralympic Games next month, those plans and precautions will be put to the test. It is my sincerest hope that they succeed – not only for the sake of the games themselves, and the safety of the athletes, trainers and officials – but as a demonstration of what is possible with the right plans and the right measures,” the WHO chief told IOC members ahead of the Games that will kick off on Friday.
“The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it. It’s in our hands,” Tedros declared. “We have all the tools we need (…) The reason why we’re not ending is the lack of real political commitment.”
He also called on the world to speak up for vaccine equity.
“Tell your government that sharing is not charity; it’s enlightened self-interest. When they invest in protecting others, they invest in protecting you,” he added.
“Weren’t vaccines meant to douse the flames of the pandemic? (…) But here’s the thing about an inferno: if you hose only one part of it, the rest will keep burning. And the embers of one fire can easily spark another even more ferocious blaze somewhere else,” the WHO head stressed.
“The threat is not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere. Anyone who thinks the pandemic is over because it’s over where they live is living in a fool’s paradise.”
Tedros urged governments to implement “a tailored and consistent set of public health and social measures” and pharmaceutical companies to boost production of vaccines by sharing know-how and technology to achieve the target of 11 billion vaccines by the middle of 2022, saying that “profits and patents must come second.”
He also acknowledged the efforts of civil society organizations to advocate vaccine equity and reminded people across the world of the “power to change the course of this pandemic, with our choices, and our voices,” which, according to him, “can be the difference between life and death.”
“More than 4 million people have died, and more continue to die. Already this year, the number of deaths is more than double last year’s total (…) And by the time the Olympic flame is extinguished on the 8th of August, more than 100,000 more people will perish,” he said.
Tedros added that while vaccines are powerful and essential tools, “the world has not used them well.”
“Instead of being deployed widely to quell the pandemic on all fronts, they have been concentrated in the hands and arms of the lucky few; deployed to protect the world’s most privileged people, including those at lowest risk of severe disease, while the most vulnerable remain unprotected.”
Seventy-five percent of the 3.5 billion doses already administered have been done so in just 10 countries, Tedros pointed out.
“This is not just a moral outrage; it’s also epidemiologically and economically self-defeating,” he added, emphasizing on the urgency to vaccinate 70 percent of every country’s population by the middle of next year.
“2023 or later will be far too late.”
“More than any other event, the Olympics have the power to bring the world together,” the WHO chief said, concluding with his wish that “the rays of hope from this land of the rising sun illuminate a new dawn for a world that is healthier, safer and fairer.” EFE