World Health Organization: Coronavirus Must Generate solidarity Not Stigma – Scoop.co.nz

Investing in preparedness is the smartest way to
ensure that the coronavirus and other disease outbreaks are
“identified and stopped quickly”, the UN health agency
said on Friday.

The Director-General of the
World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros
Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told
journalists via VTC from Kinshasha, Democratic Republic of
the Congo, that countries globally are in “a better state
of preparedness for COVID-19, the coronavirus, than they
were just a week ago”.

And WHO’s efforts to help
countries boost their lab capacity continue.

Health
workers are the ‘glue’

It is not uncommon for
case definitions to change as more information becomes
available. And WHO is seeking clarity on how clinical
diagnoses are being made so that other respiratory
illnesses, including influenza, are not getting mixed into
the COVID-19 data.

“In total, there have been 1,381
deaths in China, including 121 reported today”, he stated,
adding that outside the country, “there have been 505
cases in 24 countries and two deaths”.

Meanwhile,
the vice minister of the national health commission said
that as of Tuesday, 1,716 health care workers had been
infected, and six have died.

“This is a critical
piece of information, because health workers are the glue
that holds the health system and outbreak response
together”, underscored the WHO chief. “But we need to
know more about this figure, including the time period and
circumstances in which the health workers became
sick”.

WHO guidelines have been developed and
distributed for health workers taking care of hospitalized
patients with acute infections.

“We have been in
regular contact with suppliers, asking them to prioritize
production and distribution of personal protective equipment
to health workers on the front lines”, he
said.

Joint mission

Mr. Ghebreyesus also
updated on a WHO-led Joint Mission with China that is
expected to touch down over the weekend.

It consists
of 12 international and WHO experts and a similar number of
national expert counterparts from China whose aim is to
rapidly inform the next steps in the COVID-19 response and
preparedness activities both within China and
globally.

“Particular attention will be paid to
understanding the transmission of the virus, the severity of
disease, and the impact of ongoing response measures”, the
head of WHO said, noting the importance of reviewing which
type of information is needed “so that the world can use
this window of opportunity to prepare health systems and
workers for possible outbreaks”.

An evolving
situation

Reminding that China has changed the way it
reports data from Hubei province, the epicentre of the
outbreak, the WHO chief updated that there is a total of
47,505 laboratory-confirmed cases in China, with 16,427
clinically-confirmed cases in Hubei province.

While
health workers and responders in China are working in
difficult conditions with virtually no sleep, the WHO chief
flagged the need to ensure that “we’re getting the most
accurate data, as quickly as possible, to assist China and
support the global response”.

“We’re working
with our Chinese counterparts on these issues, and this is
also part of the scope of work for the WHO-led joint mission
with China”, he said.

Cambodian
solidarity

Thanking Cambodia “for demonstrating to
the world the meaning of solidarity”, Mr. Ghebreyesus
recalled that while other countries turned away the
Westerdam cruise ship, “Cambodia allowed it to
dock”.

Hundreds of passengers are currently
disembarking and heading to their home countries and 20 who
had reported signs of illness have tested negative for the
COVID-19 virus.

“I hope that other countries will
follow Cambodia’s lead”, stated the WHO
chief.

Solidarity

Worrying signs are emerging
that the world is not standing in unison with those at the
epicenter in China who are saving lives and alleviating
suffering.

“Lastly”, he concluded, “I want to
say again, from my heart, that that this is the time for
solidarity, not
stigma”.

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