WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL'S OPENING REMARKS AT THE MEDIA BRIEFING ON COVID-19 - 23 MARCH 2020

• The pandemic is accelerating. It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just 4 days for the third 100,000 cases. You can see how the virus is accelerating.

• But we’re not prisoners to statistics. We’re not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic.

• Numbers matter, because they’re not just numbers. They’re people, whose lives and families have been turned upside down.



Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, wherever you are.


Less than 6 months ago, WHO and FIFA signed an agreement to work together to promote health through football.


We didn’t know then what we know now – that a new virus would emerge that would bring many parts of society to a standstill – including the beautiful game.


Many football matches have stopped – but our collaboration has become even more important during these difficult times. In fact, it’s given us the opportunity of working together more closely than we imagined.

Football can reach millions of people, especially younger people, that public health officials cannot.


Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome my dear brother Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA, to talk about our joint campaign to “Pass the message to kick out coronavirus”.


I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank FIFA for its generous contribution of US$10 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.


To date, the fund has raised more than US$70 million, in just 10 days, from more than 187,000 individuals and organizations, to help health workers on the front lines to do their life-saving work, treat patients and advance research for treatments and vaccines.


I would also like to thank TikTok for its contribution of US$10 million, and for its valuable support in helping to reach its large, young audience with reliable health information.


Speaking of which, our new WhatsApp Health Alert has now attracted 10 million users since we launched it last Friday – this is just in 4 days –delivering reliable health information directly to their mobile phones. Details on how to sign up are on the front page of our website. The Arabic, French and Spanish versions will be launched this week, and this is the best way to be connected directly with people.


So thank you, Gianni, for your support, and the support of the whole footballing community.


I’d now like to give you the floor to say a few words, but I would also like to recognize that it’s your birthday today. So I would like to say happy birthday, my dear brother, and thank you so much for joining us today.


[MR GIANNI INFANTINO, PREISDENT OF FIFA MADE BRIEF REMARKS, FOLLOWED BY WHO GOODWILL AMBASSADOR ALISSON BECKER]


Thank you, Gianni and Alisson.


I’d now like to continue with the rest of my remarks on the COVID-19 pandemic.


More than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, from almost every country in the world. That's heartbreaking.