WHO warns Covid pandemic ‘not the big one’ and Disease X is ’emerging’

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Covid-19 should be a "wake up call" for future diseases even more severe than the current pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

More coronavirus patients are in hospital beds in England than ever before yet Dr Mark Ryan, the head of the WHO emergencies programme, says the virus might not even be "the big one".

Dr Ryan revealed on an online briefing that new "emerging" diseases may prove to have higher fatality rates that Covid-19, which he admitted would "come as a shock to some people".

However, he did not say how infectious these future diseases may be.

He said: "This pandemic has been very severe, it has spread around the world extremely quickly and has affected every corner of this planet – but this is not necessarily the big one.

"This virus is very transmissible and it kills people and it has deprived so many people of loved ones but its current case fatality is reasonably low compared to other emerging diseases.

"This is a wake up call, we are learning now how to do things better. How to do science better, how to do logistics better, how to do training better, how to do governance better, how to communicate better."

Our experience dealing with coronavirus must be reviewed and taken note of so the world is as prepared as it can be for the next pandemic to break out, he added.

He said: "These threats will continue, if there is one thing we need to take from this pandemic, from all the tragedy and loss, is that we need to get our act together."

"We need to get ready for something that may be even more severe in the future."

Speaking of a duty to those who have died of the virus, Dr Ryan said we should, "honour the people we have lost by getting better at the things we do every day".

This month two new variants of Covid-19 have been identified and even more will mutate, according to Dr Maria Van Kerkhove who said it should be a "wake up call".

Dr Van Kerkhove said: "You’ve heard everyone here say that these mutations will continue to happen. We need even more resolve.

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"I know everyone is tired and fed up with this and wants this to be over.

"But this should push us even further, to have even more resolved to end this pandemic.

"Vaccines are coming online. This is an incredibly powerful tool. We cannot lose this battle now.

"We are all in this together and we need to reduce transmission everywhere we can."

  • World Health Organisation
  • Science
  • Coronavirus

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