The World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general says a "litany of lies and conspiracy theories" is a major barrier to getting an agreement on how to tackle a new pandemic such as COVID-19.
Speaking at the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the term “Disease X” was first used in 2018.
It was a placeholder for a disease not known but for which preparation could be made.
"COVID-19 was a Disease X – a new pathogen causing a new disease," said Tedros.
“There will be another Disease X, or a Disease Y, or a Disease Z. As things stand, the world remains unprepared for the next Disease X and the next pandemic."
Preparing for 'Disease X'
To avoid facing the same problems of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tedros said the WHO's member states met in Geneva in December 2021 and reached an agreement to develop an international pandemic preparedness and response accord.
The agreement would be a legally binding pact to ensure the safety of member states.
Countries set a deadline to complete the agreement in time for its adoption at the World Health Assembly in May 2024, which is only around 15 weeks away.
Tedros said there are currently two significant obstacles to meeting that deadline.
"The first is a group of issues on which countries have not yet reached consensus," where further negotiation between countries is needed. All issues are manageable once member states meet the general concerns.
"The second major barrier is the litany of lies and conspiracy theories about the agreement," said Tedros.
Among the conspiracies is that such a pandemic is a "power grab" by the WHO, and nations will cede sovereignty to the world's health body.
Another conspiracy is that such a treaty will give the WHO the power to impose lockdowns or vaccine mandates on countries.
Some believe that it is an "attack on freedom," as the organization will have power and control over people’s lives.
"These are some of the lies that are being spread," noted Tedros.
"If they weren't so dangerous, these lies would be funny," he said, explaining that they risk the health of the world's people.
"And that is no laughing matter," he noted, adding the claims are "utterly, completely, categorically false."
Countering the conspiracies
He stressed that the pandemic agreement will not give the WHO any power over any state or individual.
"Anyone who says it will is either uninformed or lying," he said.
He emphasized that the draft agreement is available on the WHO’s website for anyone who wants to read it and people will not find a single sentence or word giving the WHO any power over sovereign states.
"We cannot allow this historic agreement, this milestone in global health, to be sabotaged by those who spread lies, either deliberately or unknowingly," said Tedros.
➤Click here to follow our WhatsApp channel for more stories.