Home Health News WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 10 July 2020 – World Health Organization

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 10 July 2020 – World Health Organization

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

Today, WHO is launching the Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco, which aims to help the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users quit during the pandemic. 

This initiative will help people freely access the resources they need to quit tobacco, like nicotine replacement therapy and access to a digital health worker for advice.

Smoking kills eight million people a year, but if users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive. 

Evidence reveals that smokers are more vulnerable than non-smokers to developing a severe case of COVID-19.

The project, is led by WHO, together with the UN Interagency Task Force on Non-communicable Diseases and brings together tech industry, pharmaceutical, and NGO partners like PATH and the Coalition for Access to NCD Medicines and Products.  

We thank our first manufacturing partners Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, who donated nearly 40,000 nicotine patches.

We are also pleased to introduce Florence, the world and WHO’s first-ever digital health worker, based on artificial intelligence. 

Florence dispels myths around COVID-19 and tobacco and helps people develop a personalized plan to quit.   

Florence is available 24/7 via video stream or text to help people access reliable information.

Florence was created with technology developed by San Francisco and New Zealand based company Soul Machines, with support from Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.  

WHO is in the final stages of adding more partners and encourages pharmaceutical and tech companies to join this initiative, which will help people reduce their risk of COVID-19 and lead healthier lives. 

We will first launch the initiative in Jordan and then roll it out globally over the coming months.

To tell you more about this initiative, I’d like to introduce my sister Her Royal Highness Princess Dina of Jordan.

Princess Dina is a long time friend, the President of the Union for International Cancer Control and a lifelong advocate for global tobacco control.

You have the floor Princess Dina.                                


Thank you to both Princess Dina and Thibaut Mongon.

Thank you so much my sister Princess Dina and also Thibaut, we really appreciate your time

Now back to COVID-19, today the world recorded 12 million cases.

In the last six weeks cases have more than doubled.

Across all walks of life, we are all being tested to the limit. For those in poverty, with little or no access to quality health services, it’s not only COVID-19 that threatens lives and livelihoods.

Other diseases like measles, polio and malaria all thrive when immunization is paused and supply chains for medical supplies are interrupted.

WHO continues to work with partners to ensure that the poorest and most marginalized are prioritized.  

That means restarting routine immunization and ensuring that medical supplies reach health workers across the world.

There’s a lot of work still to be done.

From countries where there is exponential growth, to places that are loosening restrictions and now starting to see cases rise. 

We need leadership, community participation and collective solidarity.

Only aggressive action combined with national unity and global solidarity can turn this pandemic around.

There are many examples from around the world that have shown that even if the outbreak is very intense, it can still be brought back under control.

And some of these examples are Italy, Spain and South Korea, and even in Dharavi – a densely packed area in the megacity of Mumbai – a strong focus on community engagement and the basics of testing, tracing, isolating and treating all those that are sick is key to breaking the chains of transmission and suppressing the virus.


As we continue to tackle the pandemic, we are also looking into the origins of the virus.

Two WHO experts are currently en route to China to meet with

fellow scientists and learn about the progress made in understanding the animal reservoir for COVID-19 and how the disease jumped between animals and humans.

This will help lay the ground work for the WHO-led international mission into the origins.


For all the challenges that COVID-19 has caused, it has also shown the way forward for other challenges that threaten humanity. 

The crisis of growing antimicrobial resistance is a slow motion tsunami, where despite the rise in resistant infections, the research and development of new antibiotics has not caught up.

Unless we take quick and sustained action, we risk a doomsday global scenario where common injuries and illnesses return to become major killers.

The AMR Action Fund aims to tackle this by strengthening and accelerating the research and development of antibiotics through game-changing investments into biotechnology companies around the world.

Whether it’s COVID-19 or AMR, the best shot we have is to work together in national unity and global solidarity.                                       

I thank you.

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