WHO frustration two years on since pandemic declaration

Photo: AFP

Geneva, Switzerland| Friday marks two years to the day since the World Health Organization first described Covid-19 as a pandemic, shaking countries into action as the disease ripped around the planet.

World 'well warned'

"People weren't listening. We were ringing the bell and people weren't acting," he told a live interaction on the WHO's social media channels on Thursday.

"What I was most stunned by was the lack of response, the lack of urgency in relation to WHO's highest level of alert in international law, as agreed by all our member states. They agreed to this!"


He said the declaration of a pandemic was simply stating the obvious once it had already happened -- and insisted countries had plenty of advance notice.

"There's a lot of people in the media and everywhere have this big argument, WHO declared a pandemic late. No!" said Ryan.

"The world was well warned about the impending pandemic.

"By March, I think there was such frustration that it was, 'OK, you want a pandemic, here's your pandemic'."

By March 11, 2020, the number of cases outside China had increased 13-fold, with more than 118,000 people having caught the disease in 114 countries, and 4,291 people having lost their lives, following a jump in deaths in Italy and Iran.

'Wrong anniversary'

Tedros's use of the word came at around 5:30 pm during a press conference on Covid-19, which by this stage was already being held largely online via Zoom.

He said it six times in quick succession -- and 10 times in all.

"We're deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction," Tedros said.

"We have therefore made the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic. Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly."

Ryan was alongside him that day, as was Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19. Two years on, she said that this Friday, people would be marking the "wrong anniversary".

"It is fundamentally incorrect," she insisted.

"You hear the frustration in our voices because we still haven't corrected the narrative.

"It will happen again! So when are we actually going to learn?

"More than six million people have died, that we know of. I don't think we've even begun to grieve this, at a global level."

Related Articles