February 18, 2024


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WHO chief’s dire warning: Disease X outbreak ‘a matter of when, not if’

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus has issued a new warning about the likelihood of Disease X breaking out, telling global world leaders it is ‘a matter of when, not if’ a new pathogen and pandemic will strike.

Tedros, who goes by his first name, told attendees at the World Government Summit in Dubai earlier his week he gave a similar warning in 2018 that a pandemic was likely to hit, and he was proven right with the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus. 

Complaining that the world is still ill-prepared for a new pandemic, Tedros once again touted the urgent need for a global treaty to be agreed upon by May and dismissed suspicions of it being a WHO power grab as outlandish.

He called the treaty ‘mission critical for humanity.’

‘Today I stand before you in the aftermath of COVID-19 with millions of people dead, with social, economic and political shocks that reverberate to this day,’ Tedros said.

‘Although some progress has been made, like improvements in surveillance, the Pandemic Fund, building capacities in vaccine production … the world is not prepared for a pandemic.

‘The painful lessons we learned are in danger of being forgotten as attention turns to the many other crises confronting our world.’

Tedros said that if the world fails to learn those lessons, ‘we will pay dearly next time, and there will be a next time.

‘History teaches us that the next pandemic is a matter of when, not if,’ Tedros added. 

‘It may be caused by an influenza virus, or a new coronavirus or a new pathogen we don’t even know about yet — what we call Disease X.’

Disease X is a hypothetical ‘placeholder’ virus that has not yet formed, but scientists say it could be 20 times deadlier than COVID-19. About eight years ago, it was added to the WHO’s short list of pathogens for research that could cause a ‘serious international epidemic,’ according to a 2022 WHO press release.

‘As things stand, the world remains unprepared for the next Disease X, and the next pandemic,’ he said. 

Tedros said there has been a lot of attention on Disease X lately but insisted it’s not a new thing. 

‘We first used the term Disease X in 2018, the same time as I spoke here at this World Governments Summit, as a placeholder for a disease we don’t even know about yet, but for which we can nonetheless prepare.’

‘COVID-19 was a Disease X, a new pathogen causing a new disease. But there will be another Disease X, or a Disease Y or a Disease Z.’

In preparation for the next outbreak, he said the clock is ticking on nations to come together and sign an international agreement on pandemic preparedness, with just 15 weeks left on the timeline agreed upon in 2021. Tedros said the treaty, which the Biden administration has been involved in negotiating, is a set of commitments by countries to strengthen the world’s defense with a ‘one health’ approach.

It would involve cooperation in research and development, access to vaccines and other products and sharing of information, technology and biological samples.

He cited two reasons why a consensus has not been reached. The first is nations have some differences, but he was confident they would be worked through.

The second major barrier, he said, is the ‘litany of lies and conspiracy theories about the agreement.’

‘That it’s a power grab by the World Health Organization. That it will cede sovereignty to WHO. That it will give WHO power to impose lockdowns or vaccine mandates on countries. That it’s an ‘attack on freedom.’ That WHO will not allow people to travel, and that WHO wants to control people’s lives.

‘These are some of the lies that are being spread. If they weren’t so dangerous, these lies would be funny. But they put the health of the world’s people at risk. And that is no laughing matter.

‘These claims are utterly, completely, categorically false. … Anyone who says it will is either uninformed or lying.’

Critics, including Advancing American Freedom (AAF), argue the legally binding treaty would cede sovereignty to a global organization and that it amounts to a power grab. The AAF is a nonprofit advocacy group founded by former Vice President Mike Pence.

Tedros said there is a draft copy of the agreement on the WHO website and urged people to read it for themselves. 

In pitching the treaty, he absolved the WHO of imposing lockdowns and vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

‘We cannot allow this historic agreement, this milestone in global health, to be sabotaged by those who spread lies, either deliberately or unknowingly.

‘Let me be clear: WHO did not impose anything on anyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not lockdowns, not mask mandates, not vaccine mandates.

‘We don’t have the power to do that, we don’t want it and we’re not trying to get it.’

The WHO faced strong criticism from around the world over its slow response to investigating China for the COVID outbreak. A WHO team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic also downplayed the possibility that the virus leaked from a lab near Wuhan, China.  

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