Dr Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization has been honoured with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award by President Michael D Higgins.

The Irish doctor, who is Executive Director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, has become a familiar face in the pandemic as he regularly heads Covid-19 press briefings.

Presidential Distinguished Service Awards are presented every year in recognition of the contribution made by the Irish diaspora.

Dr Ryan received the honour at Áras an Uachtaráin earlier today.

President Higgins said: "Dr Ryan has rendered an enormous service to global public health over many decades and in doing so has raised the reputation and standing of Ireland. His global leadership on this issue has made all Irish people proud, in the best possible form of contribution to global health without borders."

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At their meeting, Dr Ryan briefed President Higgins on the WHO's work to date to combat Covid-19, including the challenges posed by the ongoing Omicron wave.

They also discussed the importance of equitable vaccine access around the world.

President Higgins added: "Dr Ryan has exhibited extraordinary resolve and focus, promoting the adoption of original, comprehensive and carefully planned strategies to suppress the spread of the Covid-19 virus, while balancing the need to ensure the protection of livelihoods and human rights.

"He has consistently advocated for the sharing of knowledge and technology with those who have least access to them, especially in the developing world."

Dr Mike Ryan receives his award from President Higgins at the Áras