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25th Oct 2021

Pandemic will end when world chooses to end it, says WHO chief

Dave Hanratty

World Health Organisation end of pandemic 2021

“It is in our hands.”

World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has declared that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic will only end “when the world chooses to end it”.

Speaking at a conference in Berlin on Sunday (24 October), Ghebreyesus issued a reminder that the pandemic is still very much an active emergency.

“It is in our hands,” he said. “We have all the tools we need – effective public health tools and effective medical tools – but the world has not used those tools well.

“With almost 50,000 deaths a week, the pandemic is far from over.”

In comparing the Covid-19 pandemic to other health challenges faced by the world, Ghebreyesus insisted that this is one that the public can successfully prevent.

The WHO chief noted that the virus will not suddenly vanish and thus the world must learn to live with it.

“This does not mean giving up on controlling the virus, but rather a focus on how we reduce the risk in the long-term, as well as doing all what we can do, to limit the emergence of new and more dangerous variants,” he said.”

“The key is to make sure the vulnerable will be protected, and the key is to make sure the number of cases will not overwhelm the healthcare capacity.”

His comments follow a similar line to that of Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who urged the Irish public to “collectively behave” in an interview on Newstalk on Saturday.

“You could be looking at up to 150 in ICU by the end of November,” the Taoiseach warned.

“That would be serious, obviously, in terms of the wider impact on the health service. But if we all collectively behave – what I mean by that is just watch ourselves, [be a] bit more cautious in how we go about in congregations and so on like that – we can pull this back.

“Particularly if people get vaccinated,” he continued.

“What’s been interesting this week is the numbers [that] have come forward, and I appreciate that – people have turned up for the first time.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin Covid public behave

Image via Julien Behal /

Asked if a “mixed message” has been sent with the return of nightclubs and increased socialising, the Taoiseach spoke in favour of regulating what he viewed as a pre-existing situation.

“What was also becoming obvious; people were doing their alternative enjoyment as well,” Martin replied.

“Even Tony [Holohan] would have pointed out to me; the market is changing itself. The streets, some nights at half eleven there was hundreds and hundreds of people, young people – natural, they’re out enjoying themselves and so on – and there was an argument for saying, ‘Let’s try this in a regulated environment where we have contact tracing and so on’.

“But, that said, we will review this on a constant basis.

“I think people, generally, now know – given their experience of the pandemic from the beginning – they know when numbers go up; there’s an almost instant alarm bell [that] goes off in the mind and people change their behaviour.”

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