The director of the World Health Organization He assured this Monday that the long-term effects among people who have suffered COVID-19 are only beginning to be understood and warned that some are suffering what is now known as “prolonged COVID.”
“I have met with groups of patients who are experiencing what is now described as ‘prolonged COVID’, to understand what they are suffering and what their needs are, as well as to move forward in research and rehabilitation”Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus assured during his biweekly press conference.
Months after being mildly or severely infected, some patients still experience symptoms such as tiredness, pain and breathing difficulties, so Tedros reiterated that herd immunity strategies are not an option for this pandemic.
“We don’t know enough about immunity to COVID-19. Most people who are infected with the virus develop an immune response in the first few weeks, but we don’t know how strong or long-lasting it is, or how it differs for different people, “he said.
University of Oxford / John Cairns
The danger of “herd immunity”
The director recalled that there have been examples of infected people getting infected a second time, so letting the virus circulate without taking public health measures is “allowing unnecessary infections, suffering and deaths.”
“Recently, there has been some discussion about the concept of achieving so-called ‘herd immunity’ by letting the virus spread. Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can protect itself from a certain virus if a vaccination threshold is reached ”, he explained.
For example, herd immunity against measles requires that around 95% of the population be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated. For polio, the threshold is approximately 80%.
“In other words, herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not exposing them to it. Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy to respond to an outbreak, much less a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic, “he said.
Tedros stressed that the vast majority of people in the world are still susceptible to being infected with COVID-19 and that seroprevalence studies suggest that in most countries less than 10% of the population has been infected with the COVID-virus. 19.
“Although older people and those with underlying conditions are at higher risk of serious illness and death, they are not the only ones at risk. People of all ages have died… Allowing a dangerous virus that we do not fully understand to circulate freely is simply unethical. It is not an option, “he said.
© IRC / Schneyder Mendoza
Confinement is not the only option
The WHO director said that there are many options to save lives, and that there is no dilemma between letting the virus circulate freely or closing our societies.
“There are many things that countries can and are doing to control transmission and save lives. This virus is transmitted mainly between close contacts and it causes outbreaks that can be controlled by implementing specific measures such as avoiding mass events, protecting the vulnerable, empowering, educating and engaging communities and persisting with the same tools that we have been advocating since day one: find, isolate, test and care cases, and track and quarantine their contacts, ”he said.
Tedros added that digital technologies help make tried and tested public health tools even more effective, such as mobile apps to support contact tracing efforts.
For example, Germany’s Corona-Warn app has been used to transmit 1.2 million lab test results to users in its first 100 days.
“India’s Aarogya Setu app has been downloaded by 150 million users and has helped city public health departments identify areas where groups could be anticipated and specifically expand testing,” he explained.
He added that more than 2,700 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Denmark. as a result of notifications received through a mobile application, and that the UK has launched a new version of its NHS COVID-19 app, which had more than 10 million downloads in the first week.
“In addition to alerting users who may have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, the app allows users to book a test and receive results, track the places they have visited, and receive the latest advice on restrictions. local, ”he said.
The WHO chief clarified that he recognized that, at certain times, some countries have had no choice but to issue confinement measures to buy time.
“Many countries have used that time to develop plans, train healthcare workers, place supplies, increase testing capacity, reduce testing time, and improve patient care. WHO is hopeful that countries will use specific interventions where and when necessary, depending on the local situation, ”he said.
In the past weeks there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of COVID-19, especially in Europe and America, and in each of the last four days the largest number of reported cases has been reported so far.
“Many cities and countries are also reporting an increase in hospitalizations and bed occupancy in intensive care,” explained Tedros.
At the same time, he said, it must be remembered that this is an uneven pandemic because countries have responded differently and countries have been affected differently.
“Almost 70% of all reported cases worldwide last week they were from 10 countries, and almost half of all cases were from only three countries, “he said.
Tedros reminded once again that there are no shortcuts or magic bullets and that the answer is a comprehensive approach, using all the tools.
“This is not theory: countries have done it and are doing it today with success. My message to all countries that are now weighing their options is: you can do it too ”, he concluded.