Remarks from WHO’s Dr Michael Ryan at World Economic Forum event on May 13, 2020

WHO’s Executive Director for the Health Emergencies Programme,, Dr Michael Ryan, dispels the false dichotomy between a healthy society and a healthy economy. In essence, only a careful and measured exit strategy from the current lockdowns will save lives at the same time as protect against a potential repeated series of lockdowns, which would be much more damaging to the economy. Dr Ryan stresses the need to invest into solid public health infrastructures and early warning and response mechanisms that can help avoid recurrence of the same situation (lockdowns). He also highlights the responsibility of the private sector in this process as it needs to demonstrate that there is a safe, responsible and risk-managed way to get back to work for people in order to build up the confidence in society in general. Finally, Dr Ryan cautions on the different policy challenges that exist around what kind of a coronavirus vaccine is needed with his main fear being that there are many unanswered policy questions about the vaccine and that many countries lack the structural or regulatory capacity to produce, deliver and approve such a vaccine. He concludes by saying that health prevention, protection and delivery is not a cost to our financial growth model, on the contrary, it is an investment. We have to stop seeing health as a “cost” and much more as an “investment” that benefits everyone. It is not all about growth, but sustainable growth that has communities and societies at its centre.

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