WHO warns against worse pandemics to come, urges preparedness

WHO had just identified the first few cases of coronavirus in Wuhan, China around this time last year, marking a year since the viral spread took control.

An empty street is seen in Manhattan borough during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in New York City, US, March 15, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON/FILE PHOTO)
An empty street is seen in Manhattan borough during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in New York City, US, March 15, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON/FILE PHOTO)
The World Health Organization (WHO) has given warning to the public that it's more than possible the world could eventually face worse pandemics, in an effort to urge nations to prioritize preparedness for the future.
The novel coronavirus has since spread worldwide to infect more than 80 million people and kill over 1.76 million, paralyzing air travel as nations have thrown up barriers against the virus that has disrupted industries and livelihoods. WHO had just identified the first few cases of coronavirus in Wuhan, China, around this time last year, marking a year since the viral spread took control.
"This is a wake-up call," executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Program Michael Ryan said at a press briefing, according to AFP. "It has spread around the world extremely quickly and it has affected every corner of this planet, but this is not necessarily the big one.
"We need to get ready for something that may even be more severe in the future."
Ryan said that while significant leaps the medical and scientific communities took to stymie viral spread, including innovation and vaccinations, are admirable and encouraging, the world is still struggling to contain second and third waves of the coronavirus, and he pointed to a need for further education and preparedness internationally, according to the AFP report.
"We are into second and third waves of this virus and we are still not prepared to deal with and manage those," Ryan said. "So while we are better prepared... we are not fully prepared for this one, let alone the next one."
While many countries have finally grasped the idea of how to manage the coronavirus spread within their own communities, and numerous vaccines being approved and distributed to nations worldwide, a new variant of the virus has emerged in Britain notably more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain. A new strain of the virus leaves questions remaining about a life after coronavirus.
"Limiting travel to contain spread is prudent until we have better info," Hans Kluge, the WHO's Regional Director for Europe, tweeted last week.
However, the Geneva-based body has cautioned against major alarm over the variant, saying it is a normal part of a pandemic's evolution and praised Britain for detecting it.
As trucks barred from entering France backed up along miles of motorway in southern England, the WHO also said in a statement that cargo transport for essential supplies such as food, medicines and fuel should be prioritized and facilitated.
"Supply chains for essential goods & essential travel should remain possible," Kluge tweeted.
Drug makers, including BioNTech and Moderna, are scrambling to test their COVID-19 vaccines against the new variant.
The WHO repeated that there was not yet enough information to determine whether the new variant could affect vaccine efficacy.

Zachary Keyser and Reuters contributed to this report.



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