Opening speech by WHO Director General at COVID press conference-19 – 27 November 2020 – World



  • Many countries around the world that have demonstrated COVID-19 can be controlled with existing tools. One of the things all these countries have in common is the emphasis on testing.

  • Since the start of the pandemic, WHO has emphasized the importance of testing and provided countries with the tools to do so.

  • As vaccines are rolled out, testing will continue to play a critical role. If you don’t know where the virus is, you can’t stop it.

  • This week the WHO published new guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior. The new guidelines recommend between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week for all adults, and an average of 60 minutes per day for children and adolescents.

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

COVID-19 is an uneven pandemic.

All countries have been affected, but not all countries have been equally affected.

Nearly half of all cases and deaths occur in just four countries, and nearly 70% of cases and deaths are in the top 10 countries.

And there are many countries around the world that have shown that COVID-19 can be controlled with existing tools.

One of the things all these countries have in common is the emphasis on testing.

Since the start of the pandemic, WHO has emphasized the importance of testing and provided countries with the tools to do so.

On January 13, we, in collaboration with the experts we work with, published the first instructions for creating tests – just two weeks after the first cases were reported.

Since then we have shipped millions of tests and other diagnostic products around the world.

And we also cooperated with countries to increase testing capacity. For example, at the start of the pandemic, only two African countries had laboratory testing capacity for COVID-19.

At the end of February, 32 countries in Africa had test capacity and now all countries can test for COVID-19.

But we continue to need more and better tests that are easy to use, cheap, reliable and fast, so that patients can be cared for and contacts traced.

In September, WHO published our target product profiles for diagnostics, describing the features needed for new tests.

Many manufacturers around the world have worked to develop these tests.

Through the diagnostic pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, WHO, FIND, the Global Fund and other partners work together to evaluate more than 50 diagnoses, including self-administered tests.

Once these tests have been validated and approved, they can be incorporated into national strategies.

In September, WHO published the first Emergency Use Listing for an antigen-based rapid diagnostic test, which can provide a result in as little as 15 minutes, along with guidelines on where these rapid tests can best be used.

Together with our partners, we also announced an agreement to purchase 120 million of these tests for 68 low- and middle-income countries, in all regions of the world.

We are now shipping these tests around the world. Last week, WHO and FIND also launched a comprehensive training package for health professionals on the use of rapid antigen testing.

But almost 2 months later, we are still facing a $ 500 million funding gap to maximize the use of rapid tests.

As vaccines are rolled out, testing will continue to play a critical role.

In the first instance, health workers, the elderly and other risk groups are given priority in vaccination.

As a result, the virus still has plenty of room to maneuver and testing remains an essential tool to control the pandemic.

If you don’t know where the virus is, you can’t stop it. If you don’t know who has the virus, you can’t isolate them, care for them, or track their contacts.

But testing must be strategic, to support clear public health goals.

Anyone who needs a test should get a test. The WHO guidelines outline how countries can test strategically based on their transmission scenario.

It’s also important to remember that while testing is essential, it is only part of the strategy.

Testing is the spotlight that shows where the virus is located. Investments in testing should go hand in hand with investments in isolation facilities, clinical care, health worker protection, contact tracing, cluster research and assisted quarantine.

WHO continues to support countries in various transmission scenarios to use strategic testing to control outbreaks.

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Finally, this week the WHO published new guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior.

Physical activity is essential for physical and mental health throughout life.

But one in four adults and four in five adolescents are not getting enough physical activity.

The new guidelines recommend between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week for all adults, and an average of 60 minutes per day for children and adolescents.

COVID-19 has resulted in many types of disabilities – but anyone can stay active, be it exercising at home or walking, running or cycling.

It’s a way we can all add years to life and live to years.

Every move counts.

Thank you.


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