The head of the World Health Organization is warning that the next pandemic — bearing in mind, of course, that we're not even through COVID-19 yet — could be even worse.
During a meeting of the World Health Assembly in Switzerland, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to get ahead of such an eventuality. In other words, have policymakers actually learned their lesson after years of tragic deaths and suffering?
"The threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains, and the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains," he said, as quoted by CBS News.
Tedros also noted that COVID — which has killed almost seven million people worldwide — hasn't gone away, but could soon be only one of several emerging threats.
"The end of COVID-19 as a global health emergency is not the end of COVID-19 as a global health threat," he told member states.
"We cannot kick this can down the road," he added. "When the next pandemic comes knocking — and it will — we must be ready to answer decisively, collectively and equitably."
Experts have been warning that human encounters with wildlife could increase the risk of transmitting pathogens from animals to humans, which likely sparked the COVID pandemic.
The list of potential pathogens keeps growing. Since 2009 alone, US scientists have identified more than 900 new viruses, CBS reported last year.
Other experts have also warned that it's not just viruses we should be worried about, pointing at the potential threat of fungi, some of which are capable of infecting people and evading fungicides.
Tedros' comments echo the sentiments of other experts who have also warned that COVID likely won't be the last pandemic in the medium-term future.
"We’ll have another pandemic," Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates told CNBC last year. "It will be a different pathogen next time."
At this week's WHO meeting, Tedros urged countries to reform the way they prepare for these threats.
"If we do not make the changes that must be made, then who will? And if we do not make them now, then when?" he said.
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