WHO Director-General's opening remarks at Member State Information Session on COVID-19 - 27 August 2021

Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to all Member States, and thank you for joining us once again.

After increasing every week for nearly two months, the global number of COVID-19 cases and deaths was stable last week.

But it is stable at a very high level – more than 4.5 million cases and 68 thousand deaths, in a week.

We are now seeing more than 650 thousand new cases a day.

Of course, the situation remains very different around the world, with steep increases and overwhelmed hospitals in some regions and countries, and welcome declines in others.

There are no shortcuts. The Secretariat continues to recommend a comprehensive, risk-based approach of proven public health and social measures, in combination with equitable vaccination.

Our global targets are to support every country to vaccinate at least 10% of its population by the end of September, at least 40% by the end of this year, and 70% of the world’s population by the middle of next year.

We are making progress. Globally, 140 countries have vaccinated at least 10% of their populations.

But in many parts of the world, vaccination coverage is still under two percent. This is unacceptable.

That is why we have called for a global moratorium on booster doses at least until the end of September.

Our 10% target is still achievable, but only if all Member States work together in solidarity.

The Secretariat is working directly with producers, countries with high vaccination levels, and producing countries, to solve this problem.

Between now and the end of the year, we expect the volume of vaccines to increase substantially. That makes it crucial that all countries step up their preparations to roll out vaccines.

Just as the pandemic has highlighted the need for improved mechanisms to share vaccines, it has also shown that the world needs better systems for collecting, analyzing and sharing information on pandemic and epidemic threats.

Currently, WHO assesses 4,500 events every month for epidemic and pandemic risk.

With the availability of new technologies and the fast-moving global information landscape, we have an opportunity to identify and understand risks much more quickly and comprehensively.

Next week, together with Her Excellency Dr Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, I will have the honour of opening the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin.

The WHO Hub is based on a principle we call Collaborative Intelligence – that only by working together can we manage epidemic and pandemic risks.

I am grateful to the Federal Government of Germany for committing €100 million to establish the WHO Hub in Berlin.

Doctors Mike Ryan and Oliver Morgan will provide more information in a few moments.


In recent months, many Member States and some private companies have started issuing documentation to confirm COVID-19 vaccination status. These certificates are issued in several different formats, including digital.

This international mishmash of documentation threatens to undermine trust in, and effectiveness of, vaccine certification, and introduces risks to public health.

Today, the Secretariat is launching guidance on the Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates, to support Member States in their efforts to adopt universally-readable digital documentation for COVID-19 vaccination status.

I thank those Member States, experts, standards development organizations and UN agencies that have contributed to this guidance.

It is important to reiterate that the Secretariat does not recommend requiring proof of vaccination certificates for international travel, but they may be used to facilitate the lifting of public health and social measures related to international travel, such as testing and quarantine requirements.

Doctors Soumya Swaminathan, Mike Ryan, and Garrett Mehl will provide more information shortly.

As always, we are grateful for your engagement with today’s presentation, and we look forward to your questions, comments and guidance.

I thank you.