Tokyo Olympics: WHO Director General addresses the IOC


World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, at WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 11 2020.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

The world is in the early stages of another wave of Covid-19 infections and deaths, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

Speaking to members of the International Olympic Committee in Tokyo, Tedros said the global failure to share vaccines, tests and treatments was fueling a “two-way pandemic.” Countries that have adequate resources like vaccines are opening up, while others are locking up in an attempt to slow the transmission of the virus.

“It’s not just moral outrage, it’s also epidemiologically and economically self-destructive,” Tedros said, adding that the longer the pandemic continues, the more socio-economic turmoil it will cause.

“The pandemic is a test and the world is failing,” he said.

A celebration of hope

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to open on Friday after being postponed last year due to the pandemic.

The rise in Covid-19 cases in Tokyo has eclipsed the Olympics, which banned all spectators from the games this month after Japan declared a state of emergency.

Cases around the Japanese capital have increased by more than 1,000 new infections per day in recent days. Nationally, Japan has reported more than 848,000 cases of Covid and more than 15,000 deaths as part of a relatively slow vaccine rollout.

The first positive case of Covid-19 hit the athletes’ village over the weekend and, so far, more than 70 cases have been linked to the Tokyo Games.

On Wednesday, Tedros said the games were a celebration of “something our world needs now, more than ever – a celebration of hope.” While the pandemic may have postponed the games, he said it did not “beat” them.

Vaccine divergences

Tedros criticized the vaccine gaps between rich and low-income countries. He said 75% of all vaccine doses were given in just 10 countries, while only 1% of people in poorer countries received at least one injection.

The world health body has called for a massive global push to immunize at least 70% of the population in each country by the middle of next year.

“The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it. It’s in our hands,” Tedros said. “We have all the tools we need: we can prevent this disease, we can test it and we can treat it.”

He called on the world’s major economies to step up their efforts by sharing vaccines and funding global efforts to make them more accessible, as well as pushing companies to increase vaccine production.

Disclosure: CNBC’s parent company, NBCUniversal, owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the US licensee to broadcast all Summer and Winter Games until 2032.

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