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WHO chief warns against misinformation over global pandemic accord

The head of the UN World Health Organization on Thursday spoke out forcefully against “misinformation on social media and in the mainstream media” which has falsely alleged that a new global pandemic accord being negotiated, would allow the WHO to override national sovereignty relating to a future outbreak.

Briefing correspondents in Geneva at his regular weekly press conference, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “the claim that the accord will cede power to WHO is quite simply false. It’s fake news.”

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Countries will decide

He made clear that countries themselves will decide the wording and scope of any global agreement on how to tackle the next pandemic, “and countries alone”.

No country will cede any sovereignty to WHO”, the Director-General emphasized.

News reports have highlighted several instances of online news sources and commentators in recent weeks, falsely claiming that the Biden administration in the United States, was negotiating a deal to allow WHO to “control” emergency laws in the event of another pandemic, such as COVID-19.

International negotiations on-going

Earlier this month, Member States of the WHO began negotiations on a draft global accord on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, working from an agreed “zero draft”, designed to protect countries and communities from future pandemic emergencies.

The Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) which is drafting and negotiating the hoped for WHO agreement, is due to meet again early next month, with a view to producing a first draft.

INB Co-Chair, Ms Precious Matsoso of South Africa, said at the March meeting, that the meeting was “a critical step in ensuring that we do not repeat the mistakes of the COVID-19 response, including in sharing life-saving vaccines, provision of information, and development of local capacities.”

Tedros said on Thursday that if any politician, business leader, “or anyone at all is confused about what the pandemic accord is and isn’t, we would be more than happy to discuss it and explain it.”

WHO mobile lab key to Tanzania Marburg Virus response

Addressing the rapid response to Tanzania’s first ever Marburg Virus Disease outbreak, Tedros said that national responders trained jointly by WHO and the US Centres for Disease Control, have been deployed to the affected region, to carry out further investigations an provide care.

So far, eight cases are confirmed, including five deaths, he told journalists, while more than 160 contacts have been identified.

“Tanzania was able to confirm the outbreak because the first samples were tested at a mobile lab that was set up as a result of work supported by WHO last year to prepare for outbreaks of viral haemorrhagic fever, including Ebola and Marburg”, the WHO chief added.

WHO has offered further support to the Tanzanian Government.

Equatorial Guinea outbreak

A month ago, Equatorial Guinea also reported an outbreak of Marburg virus disease and since then, eight additional laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported, bringing the total to nine confirmed and 20 probable cases.

“WHO has deployed experts to Equatorial Guinea to support the Government’s response, and to strengthen community engagement”, Tedros continued.

Marburg belongs to the same family of viruses as Ebola, and causes similar symptoms, transmitting between human in the same way with a high rate of fatalities.

“While there are no approved vaccines or therapeutics for Marburg WHO is leading an effort to evaluate candidate vaccines and therapeutics, in the context of the outbreak”, Tedros concluded.