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WHO officials warn that coronavirus pandemic may not be 'the big one'

WHO officials emphasized the necessity of future preparedness against a potentially even deadlier virus.

Updated: December 29, 2020 - 1:15pm

Despite the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic, officials at the World Health Organization are warning that the global battle against the virus is "not necessarily the big one" and the world should continue seriously preparing for the possibility of another, worse, pandemic.

WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan said at a Monday press conference that the coronavirus outbreak has been "a wakeup call."

"This pandemic has been very severe," said Ryan. "It has spread around the world extremely quickly, and it has affected every corner of this planet, but this is not necessarily the big one. We need to get ready for something that may even be more severe in the future."

The press conference marked the one-year anniversary since the first time the United Nations agency heard for the first time about the new illness rapidly spreading throughout Wuhan, China. Since that time, 1.8 million people around the world have died from complications due to the virus, and 81 million have been infected. 

Ryan said on Monday that while the coronavirus is "very transmissible, and it kills people," the fatality rate is "reasonably low in comparison to other emerging diseases."

WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward applauded the rapid development of an effective vaccine to combat the virus that has disrupted all walks of daily life, but warned that the world is hardly prepared to deal with a reoccurrence of this type of event. 

"We are into second and third waves of this virus, and we are still not prepared to deal with and manage those," he said. "So while we are better prepared ... we are not fully prepared for this one, let alone the next one."

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