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'Stop fighting each other' on vaccines, WHO official tells world leaders in Euronews interview

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By Euronews
FILE: A health worker shows the media how she prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to a patient at a vaccination center, Rome, Italy
FILE: A health worker shows the media how she prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to a patient at a vaccination center, Rome, Italy   -   Copyright  Alessandra Tarantino/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Just a year ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) first declared the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.

On March 11, 2020, confirmed cases of COVID-19 stood at 125,000, and reported deaths stood at fewer than 5,000.

Today, 117 million people worldwide are confirmed to have been infected. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 2.6 million people have died.

At the time, few could foresee the long road ahead, the deaths and agonies of millions, the ruined economies, the disrupted lives and near-universal isolation.

A year later, some are dreaming of a return to normal driven by vaccines inoculation.

Euronews show Good Morning Europe spoke to David Nunes Nabarro, WHO's Special Envoy on COVID-19 to look back at the key lessons the world has learned in this pandemic year and the road still ahead to beat the virus.

'Stop fighting each other'

Nunes Nabarro had a message for world leaders.

"Vaccination is a marathon. It's hard work. It takes collective organization," he said. "So the request is to world leaders, work to get up, stop fighting each other over who has the vaccine."

The comments come as a fresh row between the EU and the UK broke out this week after EU Council President Charles Michel accused London of banning vaccine exports. Britain has vehemently denied the charge.

"I think the first instinct of every politician is to say 'my job is to protect my citizens'. But there are more and more who are realizing that our citizens won't be safe until all citizens are safe and that means having a gradual programme to increase access to vaccine all over the world."

'Be careful as you relax restrictions'

The WHO official noted that infection numbers had been picking up in Western Europe in recent weeks.

"And just now we've got countries relaxing a number of restrictions. What I'm saying is be extraordinarily careful as you relax restrictions because this virus hasn't changed and it will pick up again."

"We let down our guard and the thing comes back, it rolls back with a vengeance," Nunes Nabarro told Euronews.

'Virus can be contained'

"I think we've all learned that this virus can be contained," Nunes Navarro continued.

"I'm afraid, however, there's still a long way to go to get us back to a situation where we can look at each other and say that this pandemic is behind us. There is still a lot more work to do."

In terms of timescale, he doesn't see inoculation as a quick fix. 

"Vaccines are not going to just get rid of this pandemic overnight. We will gradually build up immunity in populations to a level where the pandemic spread is much less, but in the meantime, and that's for many more months, we have to continue doing what we've learned to do over the last year.".