Q&A: Omicron has the spikes, pandemic intelligence chief has ...

World

Q&A: Omicron has the spikes, pandemic intelligence chief has the AI

New WHO group, headed by veteran Nigerian epidemiologist, aims to wield data to manage Covid and future health crises

James Paton

Just days after Chikwe Ihekweazu took the reins of the World Health Organisation’s new pandemic intelligence hub, a new and heavily-mutated variant of the coronavirus appeared on scientists’ radar. Omicron prompted countries to close their doors to Southern Africa and threatened to widen an already worrying gap in access to vaccines.

Now Ihekweazu, a veteran epidemiologist who previously led the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, aims to counter global discord with data. The centre in Berlin plans to collect and share information to help governments predict, detect and respond to health emergencies more quickly, relying on artificial intelligence and other tools. He hopes to spur collaboration at a time when many countries are putting their own interests first.

The hub, set to bring on as many as 120 people over the next couple of years, is advancing along with plans for an international treaty to bolster health defences and other programmes aimed at making sure countries are better equipped to tackle the next crisis. Ihekweazu, 50, spoke with Bloomberg, and his remarks have been edited for clarity and length...

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