The directors of the World Health Organization called for global solidarity and cooperation to fight the spread of coronavirus — with their top doc saying calling the deadly virus a ‘test of solidarity’ Saturday, Your Content is first to report.
“COVID-19 is a test of solidarity, and that it is important for countries and governments to abide by the principles of international cooperation, collaboration and solidarity.” said the World Health Organization.
“WHO regional directors of Europe, the Western Pacific and Africa called for global solidarity to fight COVID-19. Ensuring international cooperation, investing in health, and engaging communities are keys to effectively tackle the pandemic,” the World Health Organization announced Saturday in their daily coronavirus briefing.
As of the morning of 19 March, over 75 000 cases were reported in the European Region, with 4 countries – Italy, Spain, France and Germany – accounting for over 77% of all European cases and with case numbers rising rapidly.
» Ensure international cooperation, collaboration and solidarity
In his statement, Dr Kluge underlined 3 key points. Firstly, he stated that COVID-19 is a test of solidarity, and that it is important for countries and governments to abide by the principles of international cooperation, collaboration and solidarity.
On this issue, Dr Kluge made a direct appeal for governments to reconsider the steps they have taken to close borders and impose import/export restrictions that are inhibiting the flow of supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment for frontline health workers. He also urged them to allow WHO experts to travel to, from and within countries freely to provide support.
» Invest in health, now and in the future
Secondly, the Regional Director emphasized that health must remain high on political agendas, today and in the future.
“The lives of millions of people in our Region are undergoing radical change. There is, quite simply, a new reality. The role of public health services is understood. The value of health workers is appreciated. Our health systems and services are valued like never before. When the vulnerability and frailty of our way of living are appreciated, health is at the top of the agenda. I ask your governments to keep it there,” said Dr Kluge.
He thanked governments for their contributions, both human and financial, to assist in the global preparedness and response efforts. He also drew attention to WHO response plans and to the just-launched COVID-19 Solidary Response Fund, a joint initiative of WHO, the United Nations Foundation and partners to support the most vulnerable and in-need countries.
» Connect and engage with communities
Thirdly, Dr Kluge underlined that all levels of government and all sectors of society have a responsibility to address COVID-19. He reiterated that engaging communities through listening and communicating effectively with the public, local partners and other stakeholders is essential to respond effectively to the pandemic.
To help countries listen to and understand their communities and ensure that their COVID-19-related response activities are relevant and actionable, WHO/Europe just launched a behavioural insights tool for rapid, flexible and cost-effective monitoring of public knowledge, risk perceptions, behaviours and trust.
» Update on the situation & response in the Western Pacific Region
Speaking from Manila in the Philippines, Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Region, began his update on a note of optimism. Explaining that today China had not reported any new cases of locally transmitted COVID-19, he noted: “This is an epidemic that can be pushed back.”
Dr Kasai stated that country responses must be tailored and specific, but must have one common factor: mobilizing the whole of society. He also appealed for countries to focus on protecting the most vulnerable, including older people and those with underlying health conditions, as well as health-care workers who are the most exposed and most essential to the response.
Reiterating Dr Kluge’s call, Dr Kasai underlined that this is a time for international cooperation and solidarity. He assured those in the European Region of continuing support from the Western Pacific Region, and thanked the European Region in turn for its support.
» Update on the situation and response in the African Region
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for the African Region, joined the briefing from Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo. She noted that although case numbers are currently comparatively low, the African Region has seen exponential geographical spread of the virus over the past 2 weeks. Cases have now been reported in 28 African countries, primarily imported from Europe.
Dr Moeti also explained that the existing social conditions and economic status of many countries in the Region place added stresses on them. For example, health systems are comparatively weak, and many households do not have running water or the space for placing individuals in isolation.
In recent weeks, countries have been preparing for COVID-19 and making strong progress in strengthening surveillance, point-of-entry screening, contact tracing and laboratory services. Now, 41 countries in the Region have the capacity to test for the virus. However, the greatest challenges remain in infection prevention and control and in critical care provision.
In conclusion, Dr Moeti echoed earlier comments, calling for strategies to tackle COVID-19 that are evidence-based and “mutually supportive and synergistic”. She thanked the European Region and its Member States for their continuing support.
The regional directors and WHO experts responded to a range of questions on issues including hospital preparedness, vaccine production, herd immunity, availability of testing kits and personal protective equipment, possible treatments, and “flattening the curve”.