Health ministers, high-level representatives of all 53 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region and partner organizations as well as representatives from civil society gathered online on Monday to discuss major health issues, pledging solidarity in response to COVID-19 crisis.
A key health issue on the shortened 2-day platinum anniversary agenda at the 70th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe (RC70) which started here on Monday is the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lessons learned, both globally and regionally.
According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the average daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region is now higher than it was during the first peak in March.
“Fortunately, the number of deaths appears to be remaining at a relatively low level, for now,” he noted, adding that “if we do not keep the transmission in check, more people will lose their lives, and there is the real risk of re-introducing so-called lockdown measures that have been so costly.”
“But by working together in humility and solidarity, we can ensure that a pandemic of this magnitude and severity never happens again,” said the WHO chief.
Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, reiterated: “We have stood next to WHO at every step of the way and we will continue to do so.” Her comment was echoed by speakers from the RC70 Europe member states.
WHO Europe members and partners were unanimous in working together for a vaccine against COVID-19 and thanked the regional office for its COVID-19 response.
“The EU has shown and will continue to show its unwavering commitment and global leadership in these unprecedented times. We have authorized treatments, coordinated clinical trials, issued clinical guidelines with the ECDC (European Center for Disease Prevention and Control) in close cooperation with WHO, and facilitated the supply of Personal Protective Equipment for our frontline health care workers,” said Kyriakides.
The Commissioner called for solidarity on the issue of the vaccine.
“We need to join forces. Whether it is in utilizing and promoting existing vaccines; fighting disinformation and vaccine hesitancy, or in our efforts to develop a vaccine to fight the coronavirus globally,” she urged.
According to Kyriakides, the European Union has committed 400 million euros (about 475 million U.S. dollars) to COVAX Facility, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, to ensure vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
“Only multilateralism can resolve global crises like COVID-19,” said the Commissioner.