Countries face ‘critical moment’ in COVID response: UN health agency chief

Volunteer guides and instructs girls in a town in Yemen, on the proper way to wash their hands. Image credit: UNICEF/Dhia Al-Adimi

With strong leadership and comprehensive strategies it’s never too late for countries to change the trendlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite passing the tragic milestone of one million deaths this week amid regional surges in infections, said the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday.

To be sure, countries are also seeing some two million new COVID-19 cases each week, WHO Executive Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at his latest press briefing in Geneva.

Varying country contexts

Describing four varying national situations, he said those countries that jumped on the virus quickly have avoided large outbreaks. Others had large outbreaks but were able to bring them under control and continue to suppress the virus.

Some economies that had controlled an initial outbreak, and subsequently eased restrictions, have seen an increase in cases, he said. And there are still other countries that are in the intense phase of transmission.

Turning the tide

“It is never too late to turn the tide”, he assured, stressing that in every region, countries have developed a collective blueprint for suppressing the virus — and saved both lives and livelihoods.

For its part, the WHO will continue to support national action plans through its regional and national country offices.

“This is a critical moment in the outbreak response”, he said, urging leaders to strengthen their response by putting in place targeted measures to suppress the spread and ensuring that health systems and workers are protected.

Solidary equals speed

“For us all, the fastest way for us to get through this is to act together”, he stressed. He issued a call to “keep doing the basics” of physical distancing, hand washing, mask-wearing, and coughing and sneezing safely away from others. It is also important to avoid crowds and keep windows and doors open when it is not possible to meet friends or family outside.

Tedros welcomed the $1 billion in new funding announced for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a collaboration to speed the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

Recalling that WHO-approved its first antigen-based rapid diagnostic test for Emergency Use Listing, he said “these tests are simple”, providing reliable results in 15–30 minutes — rather than hours or days — at lower prices.

Expressions of interest

He also announced that WHO published today a call for expressions of interest by manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines — to apply for approval for prequalification and/or Emergency Use Listing.

“Sharing finite resources — from tests to therapeutics to vaccines — is not charity”, he clarified. “It is the smart play for all countries, as it will ensure that they can protect those at most risk.”

US President and COVID-19

Tedros began the press conference, wishing both President Trump and the First Lady of the United States, “a full and swift recovery. Our prayers are with them”, he said.

Responding to a journalist’s question about whether the President’s “disregard” for mask-wearing made it inevitable that he would contract COVID-19, WHO Emergencies Executive Director, Dr. Mike Ryan, said that the agency does not comment on the risk management measures or behavior of any individual.

“We don’t know what risk management measures were in place”, he said, especially for someone as prominent as a president. “What we will reiterate, is that each and every individual and each and every citizen should be guided by the national guidance in their country.”

We all know “the combination of different measures that reduce risk”, said Dr. Ryan, “and we know these reduce risk; washing your hands, staying a safe distance from other individuals, avoiding crowded spaces, wearing a mask…and doing all of that to protect yourself and others, is the best way to protect society. Our advice doesn’t change.”

“We are a community, and we will get through this together”, he added.

WHO probe of DR Congo abuse allegations

Tedros also addressed disturbing news from the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse by people identifying themselves as working for WHO.

“To be very clear, we are outraged,” he said. “The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible.”

WHO will not tolerate such behavior from its staff, contractors, or partners, he said, emphatic that anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal.

Tedros said he has initiated an investigation into the charges, as well as broader protection issues in health emergency response settings.

Originally published by the UN

--

--

--

I write on national and international Health, Politics, Business, Education, Environment, Biodiversity, Science, First Nations, Humanitarian, gender, women

Recommended from Medium

The week in public services — 26th February 2019

WHO: Mental wellbeing administrations ‘extremely restricted’ for war-assaulted Yemenis

MAKING SENSE OF THE INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY: AN INHERITANCE FROM THE PAST

The markets on Monday — China issues ultimatum to US on trade

Child Maintenance Service: Government Response to the Work and Pensions Committee Fourteenth Report…

Volodymyr Zelensky On War, Technology, And The Future Of Ukraine

I-GP Adamu and the Community Policing Gravitation

Washington again welcomes Ankara to forsake the Russian S-400 arrangement

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Asha Bajaj

Asha Bajaj

I write on national and international Health, Politics, Business, Education, Environment, Biodiversity, Science, First Nations, Humanitarian, gender, women

More from Medium

G ballade’s favourite spot

Why is college admission process s

On Top of the World

15 MOM AND KIDS APPROVED TRAIL SNACKS