WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the Member State briefing on COVID-19 - 1 October 2020

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Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Thank you for joining us for this week’s Member State briefing.

Our schedule today is quite wide-ranging. I will give a brief overview and then we can get started.

Before I start, I would like to address some troubling news from the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, regarding reports of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse by people identifying themselves as working for WHO.

When I read these reports, I felt appalled and sad.

The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible. We do not tolerate such behaviour in any of our staff, contractors or partners.

Anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal.

I have initiated a thorough review of the specific allegations, as well as broader protection issues in health emergency response settings. I will have more to say on this very soon.

WHO has a zero-tolerance policy with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse.


Now, regarding our agenda for today, we are going to start with the ACT-Accelerator update.

I am delighted to have our co-Conveners of the Diagnostics Pillar with us today; Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, and Catharina Boehme, Chief Executive Officer of FIND.

They will be joined by our WHO Diagnostics Pillar lead, Hanan Balkhy, to share with you the new discoveries and plans for rolling out two new rapid antigen diagnostic tests.

Peter, Catharina and Hanan, thank you so much for joining us.

We think this will be a significant advance, especially for low income countries.

Next we will have a brief overview of the upcoming Executive Board Special Session from our Director of Governing Bodies, Dr Tim Armstrong.


We will then hear from Anders Nordstrom, the head of the secretariat of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.

This coming Tuesday, as you know the IPPR co-chairs, Her Excellency Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Right Honorable, Former Prime Minister Helen Clark, will be providing an update of their work so far.

They will discuss the selection of panelists, defining Terms of Reference and establishing the secretariat.

They will also be reporting back on their first panel meeting from last month.

We will hear more on all of this from Anders.


We will finish up with Assistant Director General Mariângela Simão, who will tell us about an invitation that will go public today, for manufacturers of vaccines against COVID-19 to submit an Expression of Interest for evaluation by the WHO Prequalification and Emergency Use Listing.

This is a key step in ensuring the quality, safety and effectiveness of vaccines as they become available.


In closing, I’ll leave you with some exciting news.

Yesterday, at the invitation of the UN Secretary General Guterres, WHO together with the United Kingdom and South Africa and Norway, hosted a high-level event at the UN General Assembly to mobilize political and financial support for the ACT-Accelerator.

I am pleased to report that close to US$ one billion - to be specific US$994 million - was committed to bolster access to lifesaving tests, treatments and vaccines to end COVID-19.

We are grateful to the UK, Canada, Germany and Sweden for their generous funding commitments.

Thank you, vielen dank, tack så mycket.

This is significant progress. But we are not there yet. We still have a significant and urgent funding gap to close.

Just over 14 billion dollars is needed by the end of the year to support research and development and rapid scale up of manufacturing of new discoveries, including in rapid diagnostics and life-saving therapeutics.


Thank you all once again for your continued support and commitment.

We look forward to your questions.

I thank you.