Sep 23, 2022 - Health

WHO official: "Blood on your hands" if world stops tackling COVID

 Bruce Aylward

Team leader of the joint mission between World Health Organization (WHO) and China on COVID-19, Bruce Aylward shows graphics during a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on February 25, 2020. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Rich nations declaring the COVID pandemic is over should help lower-income countries reach that point too, a senior World Health Organization official said Friday in an interview with Reuters.

Why it matters: Bruce Aylward's comments come days after President Biden declared the pandemic over during a televised interview, noting that no one was now wearing masks and "everybody seems to be in pretty good shape."

  • Biden later clarified his comments, acknowledged that he was criticized for the remarks but said the pandemic "basically is not where it was."

What they're saying: "If you go to sleep right now and this wave hits us in three months... God — blood on your hands," warned Aylward, a senior WHO adviser who coordinates a group focused on equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests worldwide.

  • Aylward said the group he coordinates is not yet ready to move out of the emergency phase of tackling the pandemic, and warned that countries should be ready for future waves of infection.

The big picture: COVID has killed approximately 6.5 million people and infected more than 614 million worldwide, per Johns Hopkins University's online tracker.

  • WHO still designates coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week the end of the pandemic "is in sight," but "we are not there yet."

  • "If we don't take this opportunity now, we run the risk of more variants, more deaths, more disruption and more uncertainty, so let's seize this opportunity," Tedros said.

Go deeper: Axios' COVID-19 dashboard

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