“Follow The Science” – Political Leaders Must Collaborate Like Scientists To Defeat COVID-19
Mike Ryan speaks to reporters at a WHO press briefing on 18 September

Political leaders should find a way to collaborate and “follow the science,” taking a page from researchers, public health practitioners, and healthcare workers who have learned to work together during the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO Health Emergencies Executive Director Mike Ryan said on Friday.

“The people have found a way to cooperate, leaders need to find the same way,” said Ryan. “As much as there may not have been collaboration or leadership at the political level, we have seen unprecedented cooperation between scientists, frontline workers, and people in labs, who have worked tirelessly to gather and share information.”

“One major problem that we see now in the world is the lack of global solidarity,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “The major powers are not working together.

“And they should, if they are really going to show the commitment to defeating this pandemic.”

The comments from WHO leadership come just as the 75th United Nations General Assembly opens virtually for the first time, with world leaders broadcasting into the New York City UN headquarters.

Already last Friday, tension was felt when the United States and Israel were the only countries to vote against an all-encompassing resolution authored by the chair of the General Assembly urging global cooperation to overcome COVID-19. Ten countries abstained from voting.

Tension Between US Leaders Emerges On Vaccine Timeline
CDC Director Robert Redfield testifies to a Senate Committee

While the United States has made a break from pursuing multilateral solutions in the COVID-19 crisis, disagreements on key actions in the pandemic response have also emerged within US leadership.

United States Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield on Thursday said that it is unlikely that a COVID-19 vaccine would be available for wider use by October, contradicting the timeline that President Trump and his cabinet had been pushing.

“If you are asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we are probably looking at third — late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” said Redfield, testifying at a Congressional hearing.

Trump immediately fired back at a Wednesday press briefing, saying that that CDC director’s statement was “just incorrect,” and that Redfield must have misunderstood the question.

A vaccine would “go to the general public immediately,” he added.

In an attempt to reconcile the contradicting statements, head of the US National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci said that “in many respects, both were right.”

Fauci told WTOP News that he thought that it was possible to get an answer on a vaccine by November or December, and immediately distributing it to high risk groups such as health care workers.

But having a wide enough distribution of the vaccine to “go back to a degree of normality” would likely not happen until the first half to third quarter of 2021, he added.

Global Leaders Must Also Cooperate To Relieve Yemen

Ryan on Friday also made a passionate appeal to global leaders to cooperate in order to ease pressure on the years-long humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

“You’ve all seen the price of geopolitical tension on suffering in the case of COVID-19. The people of Yemen have been paying that price for years, and will continue to pay until the international community come together to end the true cause of their suffering, which is the war,” said Ryan.

The Yemeni health system was in bad shape even before COVID-19 hit – less than 40% of the health system is currently functional, added Dr Tedros.

Yemen has only 2000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, but there have been 496 recorded deaths. The high death rate, coupled with the collapsed health system, has WHO officials worried that many COVID-19 cases are being missed by the testing system.

Image Credits: WHO , The New York Times.

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