The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the world must prepare for the next pandemic, which could be “even deadlier” than the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sounded an alarm that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.

“The threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains,” Dr. Tedros said. “And the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains.”

However, the WHO recently declared that the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a health emergency.

“When the next pandemic comes knocking — and it will — we must be ready to answer decisively, collectively and equitably,” he added. 

“We cannot kick this can down the road,” Dr. Tedros said in an address to the WHO’s member states. “If we do not make the changes that must be made, then who will? And if we do not make them now, then when?”

Despite issuing these dire warnings, Dr. Tedros applauded the recent decision by WHO member states to draft a pandemic treaty while also approving a budget increase, which was approved after the organization made a commitment to budget and finance reforms, according to Reuters.

Dr. Tedros also called for updated negotiations on the International Health Regulations, the treaty outlining preparedness and responses to health crises, “so the world will never again have to face the devastation of a pandemic like COVID-19.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has to date killed almost 7 million people worldwide, according to the WHO, with almost 1.13 million deaths in the United States. More than 80,000 people died of coronavirus infection in New York alone.

The WHO has identified “priority” contagious diseases — these are likely to cause the next pandemic because of their potential to spread across a region and because there are few, if any, measures in place to counter their spread.

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