Statement in response to the WHO Emergency Committee meeting on Covid-19

Dr Charlie Weller, Head of Infectious Disease Prevention at Wellcome, responds to the WHO decision not to declare an end to the Public Health Emergency of International Concern for Covid-19.

“The availability of life-saving tests, treatments and vaccines has transformed our response to Covid-19. But three years on from the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern, the enduring failure to ensure equitable access to these tools and the tendency to resort to short-term fixes is still holding us back.

“With weekly reported deaths tragically rising, the rapid increase in cases across China, and a drop in global surveillance to track the virus’ next steps, we cannot let our guard down.

“To safeguard our hard-earned progress, policymakers must focus on how to reach those who still need protecting. This includes investing in next-generation vaccines that block transmission, protect for the longer-term, cover multiple variants and can be used more easily in lower- and middle-income countries.

“But we can’t stop there. From the global outbreak of mpox to the resurgence of cholera, infectious diseases are escalating in new and unexpected ways. Governments must accelerate efforts to improve disease surveillance in all corners of the world, strengthen depleted healthcare systems, and expand research, development and manufacturing capacity to help discover and fairly distribute new products.

“By raising our ambitions, we can chart a new era in protecting humanity from deadly infectious diseases by acting early and preventing their escalation.”