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WHO Director-General’s opening statement in COVID-19 media statement



  • Interim results from the Solidarity Therapeutics Trial now show that the other two trial drugs, remdesivir and interferon, have little or no effect on preventing death from COVID-19 or reducing hospital time.
  • At the moment, the corticosteroid dexamethasone is the only therapeutic shown to be effective against COVID-19, for patients with severe illness.
  • Although the number of deaths reported in Europe last week was lower than in March, hospitals are on the rise and many cities are reporting that they will reach their intensive care bed capacity in the coming weeks.
  • In the winter in the southern hemisphere this year, the number of seasonal cases of influenza and death is lower than usual due to measures put in place to contain COVID-1
    9. But we cannot assume that the same will be true in the northern hemisphere flu season.
  • The demand for flu vaccines may be more than the supply in some countries. Therefore, the Strategic Advisory Group of Immunization Experts recommends that, among the five risk groups, health workers and the elderly be the highest priority group for flu vaccination during the COVID-19 period. Another tool that has not been used is the use of antivirals to treat people with the flu. We encourage all countries to use all the tools they can use.
  • Today is World Hypertension Day. To support countries taking action against heart diseases, the WHO has developed the HEARTS package, which outlines six key components for addressing heart health threats, including hypertension.

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

Six months ago, the WHO launched the Solidarity Trial to evaluate the effectiveness of four drugs for the treatment of COVID-19.

The Solidarity Trial is the largest randomized controlled trial in COVID-19 therapeutics, involving nearly 13,000 patients in 500 hospitals in 30 countries.

In June, we announced that we had stopped the hydroxychloroquine arm of the study, and in July we announced that we would no longer enroll patients to receive a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir.

Temporary trial results now show that the other two trial drugs, remdesivir and interferon, have little or no effect on preventing death from COVID-19 or reducing hospital time.

We hope the full results will be published shortly in a leading scientific journal.

We would like to thank all the patients and clinics who have participated so far in this unprecedented study, and the countries and hospitals that cover trial costs.

The Solidarity Trial still takes about 2000 patients per month and evaluates other treatments, including monoclonal antibodies and new antivirals.

At the moment, the corticosteroid dexamethasone is the only therapeutic shown to be effective against COVID-19, for patients with severe illness.

There are still many other ongoing therapeutic tests identified through the Research and Development Roadmap for COVID-19.

Through the ACT Accelerator, WHO remains fully committed to accelerating the development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19, and to ensuring equitable distribution.

In that sense, we welcome efforts to expand access to COVID-19 trials, treatments and vaccines, such as South Africa and India’s proposal to the World Trade Organization to waive patents on medical products for in COVID-19 until the pandemic ends.

The end of the pandemic begins with collaboration and sharing at all levels as a global community.

This includes sharing data, knowledge and intellectual property in essential, conservative health products.

That is why WHO and Costa Rica launched the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP, in late May of this year – a voluntary initiative that will allow the benefits of scientific research to be shared and equal share. And we want to take this opportunity to thank South Africa and India.

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As the northern hemisphere approaches winter, COVID-19 cases are on the rise worldwide, especially in Europe where countries are expanding measures to prevent it, and many people understand the inconvenience. caused by the pandemic in their lives and livelihoods.

Last week, the number of cases reported in Europe was almost three times higher than the first peak in March.

Although the number of deaths reported in Europe last week was lower than in March, hospitals are on the rise and many cities are reporting that they will reach their intensive care bed capacity in the coming weeks.

Every hospital bed occupied by a patient with COVID-19 is a bed that is not available for another person with a different condition or disease, such as the flu.

Each year, there are up to 3.5 million severe cases of seasonal flu worldwide, and up to 650,000 respiratory-related deaths.

In the winter in the southern hemisphere this year, the number of seasonal cases of influenza and death is lower than usual due to measures put in place to contain COVID-19.

But we cannot assume that the same will be true in the northern hemisphere flu season.

Co-circulation of flu and COVID-19 may present challenges for health systems and health facilities, as both diseases have many similar symptoms.

For that reason, WHO is working with countries to develop a holistic approach to the preparedness, prevention, control and treatment of all respiratory diseases, including influenza and COVID-19.

Many of the same measures that are effective in preventing COVID-19 are also effective in preventing the flu, including physical distance, hand hygiene, cough cap, ventilation and masks.

And although we do not yet have a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, we do have a safe and effective vaccine for the flu.

The WHO recommends flu vaccination for five target groups: pregnant women, people with underlying health conditions, the elderly, health workers, and children.

These groups remain important targets for influenza vaccination.

However, one of the challenges we face today is that the demand for flu vaccines may exceed supply in some countries.

Therefore, the Strategic Advisory Group of Immunization Experts recommends that, among the five risk groups, health workers and the elderly be the highest priority group for flu vaccination during the COVID-19 period.

Another tool that has not been used is the use of antivirals to treat people with the flu. We encourage all countries to use all the tools they can use.

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Finally, today is World Hypertension Day.

Now there is a personal resonance for me, because I am one of the 1.13 billion people in the world living with hypertension.

I have access to good medical care. But many others living with hypertension are not very lucky.

Worldwide, 9 out of 10 people with hypertension do not control it, and 2 in 5 people with hypertension do not know they have it.

People with hypertension are at higher risk of heart disease, kidney damage and stroke, as well as severe pain and death from COVID-19, and the pandemic interferes with hypertension services in more than half of the countries.

To support countries taking action against heart diseases, the WHO has developed the HEARTS package, which outlines six key components for addressing heart health threats, including hypertension.

The COVID-19 pandemic will end. But more than 1 billion people still live with hypertension.

Even though we are focused on ending the pandemic, we must remember that COVID-19 is just a health threat to many.

And that is why the WHO vision remains the highest attainable standard of health for all, everywhere – health for all.

Thank you.


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