The World Health Organization on Monday acknowledged that the coronavirus outbreak has had a devastating impact around the globe, but warned that worse pandemics could lie ahead, AFP reported. The health body urged world leaders to get serious about preparedness against future contagions.

“This is a wakeup call,” WHO Emergencies chief Michael Ryan told reporters at a briefing marking a year since the UN agency first learned of the coronavirus outbreak in China. “This pandemic has been very severe. It has spread around the world extremely quickly and it has affected every corner of this planet, but this is not necessarily the big one.”

Ryan noted that while the coronavirus is “very transmissible, and it kills people”, its current case fatality rate was “reasonably low” in comparison to other emerging diseases. “We need to get ready for something that may even be more severe in the future,” he said.

WHO Senior Advisor Bruce Aylward said the world had made huge scientific progress to address the coronavirus crisis, including developing vaccines at record speed. However, it remained far from prepared to ward off future pandemics, he said.

“We are into second and third waves of this virus and we are still not prepared to deal with and manage those,” Aylward told the briefing. “So while we are better prepared... we are not fully prepared for this one, let alone the next one.”

Globally, Covid-19 has infected more than 8.12 crore people and killed over 17.72 lakh, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Over 4.59 crore people have recovered from the infection.

The global health body’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, meanwhile, voiced hope that the coronavirus pandemic had taught countries around the world to be better equipped to deal with future threats. But he stressed that it was “time now to be really serious”.

“In terms of awareness, I think we are now getting it,” he said. “More ambition will be necessary.”

Tedros also hailed the United Kingdom and South Africa for effectively testing and tracking the new variants of the coronavirus, which appear to be more infectious that previous strains. “Only if countries are looking and testing effectively will you be able to pick up variants and adjust strategies to cope,” he said.