World

WHO chief: We may be tired of Covid-19 but it's not tired of us

He urges all countries to stay vigilant and take precautions instead of relying on unproven vaccines

PARIS : People are becoming weary of the coronavirus pandemic but should remain vigilant and continue to take precautions while the world awaits a vaccine, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday.

Eleven months into the pandemic that has killed more than 1.2 million people, derailed economies and turned daily lives upside down around the world, he said relying on promising but as-yet unproven vaccines was a risky bet.

"We may be tired of Covid-19 but it is not tired of us. European countries are struggling, but the virus has not changed significantly, nor the measures to stop it," Dr Tedros told the Paris Peace Forum.

A recent resurgence in infections has led many countries to adopt new lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus and protect their creaking healthcare systems.

On Monday, US drugmaker Pfizer and German partner BioNTech said a vaccine they are developing was 90 per cent effective against Covid-19, based on initial results from its large, late-stage trial. The results need to be confirmed by safety data.

"A vaccine is needed urgently, but we cannot wait for a vaccine and put all our eggs in one basket," Dr Tedros said yesterday, repeating a call for any Covid-19 vaccine to be shared fairly with poor countries.

Meanwhile, China is facing an increased risk of local transmission of the coronavirus in the winter due to imported cases as the spread of the global pandemic accelerates, a senior official at the country's health authority said yesterday.

In winter, there might be sporadic cases in some areas and some pocket cluster cases in others, Dr Li Bin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, said at a press conference.

"China's epidemic prevention and control work cannot be relaxed for a single moment," Dr Li said.

Countries such as India, Brazil and France are reporting tens of thousands of new infections daily.

By contrast, China has largely controlled the spread of the virus since early summer, although clusters of community infections have periodically hit parts of the country.

IMPORTED

In the past week, a handful of local cases linked to food imports have emerged in the northern port city of Tianjin, while an airport worker in Shanghai has contracted the virus even though he has had no direct contact with infected patients.

Officials noted a rise in imported cases among travellers arriving from abroad.

China has continued to halt issuing visas to some foreign nationals while restricting non-urgent outbound movements by Chinese citizens, Mr Yin Chengji, deputy commissioner of the National Immigration Administration, told reporters.

Asked if China would create so-called travel bubbles with countries less affected by the virus, Mr Luo Zhaohui, vice-minister of foreign affairs, said now was not the right time.

"For closed-loop travel bubbles, we do not deny this possibility, but we think the conditions are not right yet," said Mr Luo.

Hong Kong and Singapore have agreed to open Asia's first travel bubble this month.

Mr Luo warned Chinese citizens against outbound travel.

"Our advice is do not go overseas," Mr Luo said. - REUTERS

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