At the 2020 Aspen Security Forum, the World Health Organization (WHO) details the steps to protect the global health security that the coronavirus imperils.
This year at the Aspen Security Forum (ASF), every focus is pulled by the gravity of a dangerous and unseen global security threat, the coronavirus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) partnered with ASF to outline its strategies for continuing to facilitate global progress against coronavirus and to detail their responses to the initial outbreak in early January.
“Dr. Tedros, I know you have an opening statement, but I just wanted to say this,” began the former U.S. diplomat, Nicholas Burns, addressing the Director-General of the WHO at the start of the forum on Wednesday. “As an American, I thought it was a great mistake for our government to announce his departure from the World Health Organization and then to withdraw its funding,” he said.
Burns continued, “a lot of Americans agree with me that during the global pandemic, we should be pitching in and helping the rest of the world, not taking our funds and leaving.” He also emphasized, “I also hope and, I think, a lot of people hope that the World Health Organization can reform itself and account for its deficiencies.”
Sincerely, he added, “But, most of all, I wanted to say because we are all in the middle of a global pandemic, we wish you well. We thank you for what you’re doing. We thank you for being with the Aspen Strategy Group.”
Protecting Global Health Security
“COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world. It has stress-tested our political, economic, cultural, and social infrastructure and found us wanting. It has pushed the limits of health systems, both weak and strong, leaving no country untouched,” said Dr. Tedros Abhanom Ghebreyesus in his opening remarks.
Dr. Tedros continued, “the world spends billions every year, preparing for potential terrorist attacks. But we have learned lessons the hard way that unless we invest in pandemic preparedness and the climate crisis, we leave ourselves open to enormous harm.”
He told the American leaders at the forum of the role that the WHO, a global health international collaboration, has played to protect global health security.
How did the WHO respond?
Dr. Tedros explained the WHO’s response to the first outbreak of the coronavirus. “Fifteen years ago, the global community came together and adopted the International Health Regulations in 2005. Its implementation by 196 state parties was a major step in the coordination of international action to enhance global security,” he began.
“Following WHO being notified of an atypical strain of pneumonia circulating in Wuhan Province, China; the International Health Regulation was triggered, and the world was subsequently informed of the outbreak in early January,” Dr. Tedros started to explain. He laid out a timeline of the WHO’s response to the outbreak.
According to the WHO chief, in the first week of January, “the genome [of SARS-CoV-2] was mapped.”
In the second week of January, “[the genome] was publicly shared. The WHO then published how to build a PCR test for COVID-19 from their partner lab in Germany.”
In the third week of January, “WHO identified and began contracting for validated production of quality PCR tests.”
On January 30th, the WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, “WHO’s highest health security alert” under the International Health Regulations (IHR). They did this when there were “fewer than 100 cases and no deaths outside of China.”
By the first week of February, “WHO began shipping tests to over 150 labs around the world, which enabled the world to quickly track and trace the virus around the world.”
“All our differences as one human race, sharing the same planet, and our security is interdependent. No country will be safe until we are all safe,” said Dr. Tedros.
He continued to advocate for universal healthcare coverage and building stronger healthcare infrastructures. “While health has often been viewed as a cost, the first coronavirus pandemic in history has shown how critical health investment is to national security. Universal health coverage is essential to our collective global health security,” he fought for them rigorously.
He admitted, “Building back stronger health systems will require political will, resources, and technical expertise in high and low-income countries, alike.” So, he continued, “That’s why the WHO’s highest priorities are to support all countries to strengthen their health system so that everyone everywhere can access quality health services when they need them.”
Finally, he sent a message to all the world’s leaders: “I urge all leaders to choose the path of cooperation and act now to end this pandemic. It’s not just the smart choice. It’s the right choice, and it’s the only choice we have.”