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Reopening without controlling the transmission of COVID-19 is a “recipe for disaster”, warns WHO

ByMicheal Johnson

Sep 13, 2020

Reopening economies and societies without having control over the transmission of COVID-19 is a “recipe for disaster” warned the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) during their regular press conference this Monday.

Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus assured that, eight months after the start of the pandemic, the Organization understands that people are tired and yearn to get on with their lives, just as countries want their economies to get back on track.

“That is what the WHO also wants. Stay-at-home requests and other restrictions are something some countries felt they needed to do to ease pressure on their health systems. But they have taken a heavy toll on livelihoods, economies and mental health, ”he said.

He added that the Organization fully supports the reopening efforts: “we want children to return to school and people to return to work, but we want it to be done safely,” he explained.

Tedros stressed that no country can simply pretend the pandemic is over Since the reality is that this coronavirus spreads easily, it can be fatal to people of all ages and most people remain susceptible to infection.

“If countries are serious about openness, should take the suppression of transmission and the importance of saving lives seriously. This may seem like an impossible balance, but it is not, it can be done and has been done. But it can only be achieved if countries have control of transmission, the more control they have over the virus, the more they can be opened. Reopening without having control is a recipe for disaster, “he said.

© IRC / Schneyder Mendoza

A doctor performs a checkup on a Venezuelan patient in Colombia amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to control the transmission?

The WHO director outlined four essential things that all countries, communities, and individuals must do to gain control over the disease.

1. Avoid events that spread the spread of the virus

“COVID-19 spreads very efficiently between groups of people. In many countries, we have seen massive outbreaks related to gatherings of people in stadiums, nightclubs, places of worship and other crowds, ”said Tedros.

The expert assured that preventing these types of events that spread the virus is essential, but that meetings can be held safely in some places.

“Decisions about how and when to allow people to meet must be made with a risk-based approach, in the local context. Countries or communities experiencing significant community transmission may need to postpone events for a short period to reduce risks, ”she said.

He added that, on the other hand, countries or communities with sporadic cases they can find creative ways to run events while minimizing risk.

In this regard, the WHO lead epidemiologist, Maria Van Kerhkove, called on young people to join the Organization in seeking alternative ways to carry out social activities safely.

“I saw recently that an event was held with DJs to which people attended by keeping their cars inside,” he commented as an example.

2. Reduce deaths

For the WHO, it is critical to reduce deaths by protecting vulnerable groups, including the elderly, people with underlying diseases and essential workers.

“Countries that do this well can cope with low levels of transmission as they open up ”Tedros explained.

By protecting those most at risk, countries can save lives, keep people from getting seriously ill, and ease pressure on their health systems.

3. Be individually responsible

People should play their role by taking steps that are proven to work to protect themselves and others: staying at least one meter away from others, washing hands regularly, practicing respiratory etiquette of covering up when coughing, and sneeze and wear a mask.

Avoid the “three Cs”: confined spaces, crowded places and close contact environments”Tedros explained.

4. Find cases, test, isolate, trace and quarantine

Governments must take tailored actions to find, isolate, test and treat cases, and trace and quarantine contacts.

“Widespread requests to stay home can be avoided if countries adopt temporal and geographic interventions“Said Tedros.

To support countries in their reopening efforts, WHO has a variety of evidence-based guidance, which can be applied in different transmission scenarios. A recently published

ILO / Alin Sirisaksopit

A nurses station in Bangkok, Thailand, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Basic health services, interrupted in almost all countries by COVID-19

Between March and June 2020, 90% of the world’s countries experienced interruptions in basic health services, with a greater impact on middle and low-income nations, according to a new survey published by the World Health Organization.

According to the WHO, most countries reported that many routine and elective services were discontinued, while cancer screening and treatment and HIV therapy have experienced high-risk interruptions in low-income countries.

“In all countries, health systems have come under extreme pressure and It remains to be seen the true impact of the pandemic in terms of the increase in other diseases and related deaths”Tedros warned.

Other important services affected were the emergency services. 24-hour service clinics were affected in 22% of countries, urgent blood transfusions were stopped in 23% of nations, and emergency surgery was affected in 19%.

“The survey shows that up to 70% of services have been interrupted for essential services, including routine immunization, diagnosis and treatment of noncommunicable diseases, family planning and contraception, treatment of mental health disorders and the diagnosis and treatment of cancer ”, explained the director.

WHO recommends that states perform a ranking of services to identify priorities, conduct patient inquiries online, make changes to prescribing practices, and implement other strategies to ensure that public health systems do not abandon those who need them most. .

“Only 14% of the countries reported having eliminated user fees, which the WHO recommended to compensate for potential financial difficulties for patients”, He said.

Tedros announced that the Organization is developing a “health services learning center”, a web-based platform that will allow countries to share experiences and learn from each other.

MSF / Olmo Calvo

Doctors Without Borders staff during their intervention in the COVID-19 emergency in Spain.

European Commission joins WHO’s global COVID-19 vaccine initiative

The European Commission expressed interest in joining COVAX, WHO’s global initiative to promote the development and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines, with a € 400 million donation.

The announcement was made this Monday through a statement, in which the president of the commission Ursula von der Leyen assured that global collaboration is the only way to overcome the pandemic.

The EU’s participation in COVAX will be complementary to the ongoing negotiations with vaccine companies that aim to increase the manufacturing capacity of vaccine producers, contributing to global efforts.

Detailed terms and conditions for the Union’s participation and contribution to COVAX will be developed in the coming days and weeks.

Dr. Tedros thanked the Commission for its contribution and incorporation into the initiative.

“National unity and global solidarity are fundamental. This virus thrives when we are divided. When we are united, we can defeat him, ”he said.

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