The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called on countries of the world to prepare for the next pandemic as COVID-19 will not be the last. Guterres said this in his message late on Monday to mark the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, which was held on December 27 to advocate the importance of prevention of, preparedness for and partnership against epidemics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of investing in systems to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. The first-ever International Day of Epidemic Preparedness was held last year, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) working closely with governments to support efforts to build strong emergency and epidemic preparedness systems, as part of an overall approach to advance universal health coverage and strengthen primary healthcare systems.

The UN boss said: “COVID-19 demonstrated how quickly an infectious disease can sweep across the world, push health systems to the brink, and upend daily life for all of humanity. It also revealed our failure to learn the lessons of recent health emergencies like SARS, Avian Influenza, Zika, Ebola and others. And it reminded us that the world remains woefully unprepared to stop localised outbreaks from spilling across borders and spiralling into a global pandemic.”

“COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic humanity will face. Infectious diseases remain a clear and present danger to every country. As we respond to this health crisis, we need to prepare for the next one. This means scaling-up investments in better monitoring, early detection and rapid response plans in every country — especially the most vulnerable.”

“It means strengthening primary healthcare at the local level to prevent collapse. It means ensuring equitable access to life-saving interventions like vaccines for all people. And it means achieving Universal Health Coverage. Most of all, it means building global solidarity to give every country a fighting chance to stop infectious diseases in their tracks. The UN boss added that by building global solidarity, every country would have a fighting chance “to stop infectious diseases in their tracks.”

Earlier in the month, the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, welcomed the decision of a special session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the UN agency’s top decision-making body to develop a new global accord on pandemic prevention and response.

Israel’s National Security Council has assumed control of a massive bird flu outbreak in Galilee, which scientists warn could become a “mass disaster” for humans. Over half a billion migrating birds pass through the area every year, heading for warm African winters or balmy European summers, making this a catastrophic location for a major bird flu outbreak—right at the nexus of global avian travel.

The virus can be deadly if it infects people. WHO said more than half of the confirmed 863 human cases it has tracked since 2003 proved fatal. Most strains or variants of avian flu, H5N1, are relatively difficult to transmit to people.

Yossi Leshem, one of Israel’s most renowned ornithologists told newsmen that it is the ability of these viruses to mutate into new strains that pose such a threat as we have seen with the Coronavirus. “There could be a mutation that also infects people and turns into a mass disaster,” said Leshem, a zoologist at Tel Aviv University and director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration at Latrun.

Meanwhile, as cases of the new Omicron variant continue to spread like wildfire, 70 per cent of COVID vaccines have been distributed to the world’s 10 largest economies, and the poorest countries have received just 0.8 per cent, according to the UN, calling it “not only unjust but also a threat to the entire planet.”

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