The chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that the risk of COVID-19 spreading at the Olympics is inevitable as tens of thousands gather for the global competition.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a keynote speech at an International Olympics Committee (IOC) meeting that cases at the Olympics should be expected and what matters is how organizers respond to infections.
“The mark of success in the coming fortnight is not zero cases, and I know that some cases have already been detected,” he said. “The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible, and onward transmission is interrupted.”
“The mark of success is not zero risk,” he added. “There is not zero risk in anything, forget about this very complicated one.”
Almost 80 cases have been connected to the Olympics, including 33 among international visitors, as of Wednesday — two days before the opening ceremony.
Tedros praised the IOC for having “done your best” to reduce transmission with COVID-19 safety measures, saying the Olympics’ success could show “a demonstration of what is possible with the right plans and the right measures.”
But the director-general also issued a stark warning to the world, calling the pandemic “a test” that “the world is failing.” He noted that 100,000 more people are expected to die from COVID-19 through the end of the Olympics, adding to the current more than 4 million global death toll.
Tedros said those who think the pandemic has ended are “living in a fool’s paradise.”
He condemned the fact that 75 percent of all COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in 10 countries, while others are unable to vaccinate their vulnerable populations, as a “horrifying injustice” and “moral outrage.”
The WHO chief called on the world to develop 11 billion doses in order to reach his target of vaccinating 70 percent of people in every country by mid-2022.
“The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it,” he later added. “It’s in our hands.”