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Covid-19: WHO's grim warning ahead of Tokyo Olympic Games

Anyone who believes the Covid-19 pandemic is over is living in a “fool's paradise”, the World Health Organisation says.

In the wake of England's ‘Freedom Day' and amid the increasing excitement about the 2021 Olympics, Covid-19 is possibly far from some people’s minds.

But the World Health Organisation has issued a sombre reminder, urging everyone not to forget reality.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus​ said on Wednesday that anyone who thought the pandemic was over was living in a “fool's paradise”.

The opening ceremony for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games will take place at about 10.50pm on Friday (NZ time), with the Games running through until August 8.

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There is still some concern about the Games, which has already been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, because of the increasing number of infections in Japan.

There’s been growing line of daily reports of athletes and others testing positive, with the tally of Games-related infections reaching 71 on Wednesday.

Experts around the world are reminding people that the ‘pandemic is not over’.

Charlie Riedel/AP

Experts around the world are reminding people that the ‘pandemic is not over’.

A state of emergency in force in Tokyo, which means almost all venues will be without any fans as new cases rise in the capital. A range of Covid-19 preventative measures and restrictions are also in place.

Speaking to media in Tokyo ahead of the Games, WHO's director-general said the “pandemic is a test, and the world is failing”.

He said that to date, more than four million people have died from the virus and that number would increase.

“In the time it takes me to make these remarks, more than 100 people will lose their lives to Covid-19,” he said during his speech on Wednesday.

“By the time the Olympic flame is extinguished on the eighth of August, more than 100,000 more people will perish,” he said.

Earlier this week, England's ‘Freedom Day’ made headlines around the world. Despite a surge in Covid-19 cases, England eased its restrictions on July 19, allowing people to return to nightclubs and bars without social distancing rules.

Speaking at Wednesday’s regular Covid briefing, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield reminded the New Zealand public that the virus was still raging around the globe.

STUFF

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield reiterated on Wednesday that globally, Covid-19 is still raging with many countries seeing a spike in cases.

“The pandemic is not over, the pandemic continues to grow, in fact,” Hipkins said. “I think we always need to remind ourselves of that.”

Bloomfield said his views aligned with that of the WHO, which expressed concern over many people “mistakenly” seeing the pandemic as coming to an end.

“[The WHO] are warning that it isn’t, and that would be certainly my view on this as well.

“Cases are on the rise in many countries,” Bloomfield said.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). (File photo)

Laurent Gillieron/AP

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). (File photo)

During his speech in Tokyo, Tedros urged governments to come together to reach a target of vaccinating 70 per cent of people in every country by the middle of 2022.

He said it was a “horrifying injustice” that 75 per cent of the vaccine shots delivered globally so far were in just 10 countries.

“The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it. It is in our hands,” he said.

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