by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 1
September 2020

Johan Giesecke gets new role at WHO

by Freddie Sayers

Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke’s interview with UnHerd made waves around the world when, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis in April, he made the case for why lockdowns were not the answer.

He has now been promoted to a more senior advisory role within the World Health Organisation, as Vice-Chair of the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards, which advises the Director-General on the response to pandemics.

“It’s a group of thirteen scientists from all around the world. Usually we meet twice a year in Geneva but since Covid-19 we’ve been meeting once a week by telephone,” he tells me down the line from Stockholm.

The London-based Chair, David Heymann, who Dr Giesecke describes as “one of the world’s best known infectious disease fighters”, has other commitments across the WHO and Dr Giesecke will lead the group in his absence.

He was voted in as the new Vice-Chair by the other members.

I asked him if he regards his election as a sign that epidemiologists around the world were looking more towards the Swedish response to Covid-19 as a model.

“I don’t think it’s a political statement, no,” he said. “I think they like my experience.”

He repeats his customary advice that it is too early to make those kinds of comparisons anyway. “You should wait one year or maybe five years before comparing strategies. We still have a long way to go in this pandemic.”

He agreed that the tone of media coverage about Sweden had has become noticeably more positive since we spoke in April.

“Back then they thought we were crazy,” he said.

Join the discussion

  • September 11, 2020
    From a worldwide perspective New York is quite irrelevant (just like Bergamo is) because clearly some catastrophic mistakes were made in the hospitals there. For a study I can refer to the Santa Clara-study from John Ioannidis (Stanford University) and also the German professor Hendrik Streeck who's... Read more

  • September 8, 2020
    No they have not . In fact, since testing capacity increased world wide the IFR is moving more and more towards Gieseckes standpoint that around 80% of the population is asymptomatic and just a minimal number of people really dies from covid-19. It now even seems that Giesecke has been... Read more

  • September 4, 2020
    Same for me, a long comment I left on the Michael Levitt interview went off to ‘moderation’ and is now stuck in pending. Is this a technical glitch, or something more sinister, ironically, on UnHerd? It seems designed to put people off spending time preparing thoughtful comments, because... Read more

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