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Homeland Security

WHO Chief, Germany's Merkel Open Global Pandemic Hub in Berlin

By VOA News September 01, 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Wednesday officially opened the international Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin — a center designed to pool the world's resources to fight future global health emergencies.

The hub, originally announced in May, will be a collection agency for health data from around the world. Equipped with a supercomputer, it will collect, analyze and disseminate information from international governments, and academic and private sector institutions.

Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Merkel told reporters the COVID-19 pandemic has shown what the world can do "when we truly join forces. Experts from around the world have been expanding their knowledge at an incredible rate and sharing it to decode the coronavirus."

In his comments, Tedros said the hub will bring together scientists, innovators, policymakers and civil society representatives to work across borders and disciplines. It will use the latest innovations in data science, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other cutting-edge technologies,

"No single institution or nation can do this alone. That's why we have coined the term 'collaborative intelligence' to sum up our collective mission," Tedros said.

He also used the briefing to provide an update on the pandemic, noting last week that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths reported to WHO declined for the first time in more than two months. But he said the drop in cases and deaths doesn't mean much when many countries are still seeing steep increases.

He also said shocking inequities in access to vaccines continue to exist, with 75% of the 5 billion vaccine doses administered globally going to just 10 countries. He said in low-income countries — most of which are in Africa — fewer than 2% of adults are fully vaccinated, compared with almost 50% in high-income countries.

The WHO chief reiterated his call for a global moratorium on administering booster shots at least until the end of September to allow those countries that are the furthest behind to catch up.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.



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