In January and February, the world saw six consecutive weeks of declining cases.
We have now seen seven consecutive weeks of increasing cases, and four weeks of increasing deaths.
Last week was the fourth-highest number of cases in a single week so far.
Several countries in Asia and the Middle East have seen large increases in cases.
This is despite the fact that more than 780 million doses of vaccine have now been administered globally.
Make no mistake, vaccines are a vital and powerful tool. But they are not the only tool.
We say this day after day, week after week. And we will keep saying it.
Physical distancing works. Masks work. Hand hygiene works. Ventilation works. Surveillance, testing, contact tracing, isolation, supportive quarantine and compassionate care – they all work to stop infections and save lives.
But confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures and their application are driving transmission and costing lives.
It takes a consistent, coordinated and comprehensive approach.
So many countries around the world have shown that this virus can be stopped and contained with proven public health measures and strong systems that respond rapidly and consistently.
As a result, many of those countries have gained control over COVID-19, and their people are now able to enjoy sporting events, concerts, restaurants and seeing their family and friends safely.
WHO does not want endless lockdowns. The countries that have done best have taken a tailored, measured, agile and evidence-based combination of measures.
We too want to see societies and economies reopening, and travel and trade resuming.
But right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing and people are dying – and it is totally avoidable.
In some countries, despite continuing transmission, restaurants and night clubs are full, markets are open and crowded with few people taking precautions.
Some people appear to be taking the approach that if they are relatively young, it doesn’t matter if they get COVID-19.
This disease is not flu. Young, healthy people have died. And we still don’t fully understand the long-term consequences of infection for those who survive.
Many people who have suffered even mild disease report long-term symptoms including fatigue, weakness, “brain fog”, dizziness, tremors, insomnia, depression, anxiety, joint pain, chest tightness and more, which are symptoms of long-COVID.
This pandemic is a long way from over. But we have many reasons for optimism.
The decline in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped.
With a concerted effort to apply public health measures alongside equitable vaccination, we could bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months.
Whether we do or not comes down to the decisions and the actions that governments and individuals make every day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that global manufacturing capacity is not sufficient to deliver vaccines and other essential health products quickly and equitably to where they are needed most.
Earlier today I joined several leaders from Africa for a discussion about how to increase local vaccine production.
It was encouraging to hear Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa speak about the concrete steps they have so far taken to start local production.
Early in the pandemic, African countries came together to agree on a coordinated continental approach to the pandemic, and now they’re coming together for a coordinated approach to scaling up manufacturing.
Investing in sustainable and secure domestic manufacturing capacity and national regulatory authorities is critical for providing essential immunization programmes, and for building strong, resilient health systems against the inevitable health emergencies of the future.
To address this challenge, WHO and our partners have established a COVAX manufacturing taskforce, to increase supply in the short term, but also to build a platform for sustainable vaccine manufacturing to support regional health security.
What can be done today, should be done today.
WHO is also ready to provide immediate technical support to assist countries in assessing the feasibility of local production, and in accessing technology and know-how.
I also want to express my solidarity with the people on the Caribbean island of St Vincent who have been evacuating their homes due to volcanic activity over the weekend.
According to experts, there are likely to be further eruptions and WHO stands ready to support the government and people of St Vincent in any way we can.
Finally, I would like to wish all Muslims Ramadan Mubarak, Ramadan Karim.