South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa will today, Monday, 18 May 2020, address the virtual 73rd Session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), at the invitation of the Director- General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom.
President Ramaphosa has been invited to participate as a guest alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who toured South Africa in an official visit at the start of February 2020 (5-7 Feb), just days before the WHO announced (11 Feb) a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19. At the time the corona virus outbreak had only been declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (30 January). It was to be another month (11 March) before the WHO declared it a pandemic.
Ramaphosa and Merkel will be joining the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; the President of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in, and the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley.
The WHA is the supreme policy decision-making body of the WHO, governed by its 194 Member States and consisting of health ministers.
The WHA meets annually to discuss major policy questions and the work programme of the WHO. This year’s meeting is conducted virtually, considering the global COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Presidency, President Ramaphosa will use this opportunity to call on the international community and all Member States to unite in global solidarity to tackle this global disease and to work together to develop solutions.
President Ramaphosa will also provide a brief account of the strategies implemented by South Africa (which have been greatly applauded by international experts) and the broader African Union, which is chaired by South Africa.
South Africa recorded its highest new infections on Sunday since the Coronavirus outbreak, with 1,160 fresh cases in the previous 24-hour cycle. The death toll now stands at 264.