From Our Bureau

17th April 2020

The Corona Virus (CPVID-19) pandemic situation continued to remain grim globally, with the confirmed cases across the world jumping to 20,74,529 and the death toll rising  to 1,39,378 in the 213 affected countries and territories, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Globally, European region continued to be the worst-hit, with 10,50,871 confirmed cases and 93,480 deaths. American region came next with 7,43,607 confirmed cases and 30,245 deaths. Western Pacific region’s tally stood at 1,27,595 confirmed cases and 5,558 deaths. Eastern Mediterranean region reported 1,15,824 confirmed cases and 5,662 deaths. South-East Asia region recorded 23,560 confirmed cases and 1,051 deaths and African region witnessed 12,360 confirmed cases and 586 deaths. WHO Risk Assessment at global level remained very high.

No new country/territory/area reported cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. Globally, the number of reported confirmed cases exceeded 2 million. WHO has released public health guidance for social and religious practices and gatherings during Ramadan. The guidance also offers advice to strengthen mental and physical wellbeing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

WHO has released guidance on considerations in adjusting public health and social measures in the context of COVID-19. This document is intended for national authorities and decision makers in countries that have introduced large scale public health and social measures. It offers guidance for adjusting public health and social measures, while managing the risk of a resurgence of cases.

The Chinese authorities have informed WHO that as cases have declined in China and the strain on the healthcare system has eased, a multi-sectoral team was established in late March 2020 to perform a comprehensive review of COVID-19 data in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Information from a variety of sources was reviewed, leading to duplicate cases being removed and missed cases added. Following this review, the total number of cases in Wuhan increased by 325 and the total number of deaths increased by 1290.  As of 11th April 2020, 167 countries, territories and areas have implemented additional health measures that significantly interfere with international traffic.

Meanwhile, at a media briefing on 17th April, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros, said that, “so far, the Solidarity Response Fund has generated more than US$150 million from more than 245,000 individuals, corporations and foundations. These funds are helping us to buy personal protective equipment, laboratory diagnostics and other essential supplies for the countries that need it most.”

“More than 2 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, and more than 135,000 people have lost their lives. While we mourn for those we’ve lost, we also celebrate those who have survived, and the thousands of people who are now recovering. WHO is updating our guidance to include recommendations for caring for patients during their recovery period and after hospital discharge,” he observed.

“We’re encouraged that several countries in Europe and North America are now starting to plan how to ease social restrictions. We have said previously that easing these measures must be a gradual process, and we’ve spoken about the criteria that countries should consider. We published our guidance on considerations in adjusting public health and social measures, which we encourage countries to read and apply,” he pointed out.

“But although we see encouraging signs in some countries, there are worrying trends in others. In the past week there has been a 51 percent increase in the number of reported cases in my own continent, Africa, and a 60 percent increase in the number of reported deaths. With the current challenge of obtaining testing kits, it’s likely that the real numbers are higher than reported,” he added.

“With WHO support, most countries in Africa now have the capacity to test for COVID-19, but there are still significant gaps in access to testing kits. We’re working with partners to fill those gaps and help countries find the virus. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that more than 1 million tests for COVID-19 will be rolled out across the continent starting next week. Strengthening and supporting African institutions like the Africa CDC will help now and for the future,” he observed.

“In addition to tests, we’re also working hard to accelerate the development, production and equitable distribution of a vaccine. I spoke to President Emmanuel Macron of France, Bill Gates and other partners to discuss how to prevent another pandemic by getting vaccines from labs to people as fast as possible and as equitably as possible. The commitment from President Macron, from Bill Gates and also from Prime Minister Boris Johnson is heart-warming.

“I also spoke to the Prime Minister of Barbados and the current chair of Caribbean countries about the challenges faced by small island developing states in gaining access to test kits and other supplies. No country should be left behind. I would like to use this opportunity to appreciate the strong leadership of the Prime Minister of Barbados steering the response in the Caribbean.

“I also spoke to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, about continuing efforts across Europe to fight the pandemic and support lives and livelihoods. The commitment of both leaders, President Von der Leyen and Prime Minister Marin is very heartwarming again.

“I would like to clarify WHO’s position on ‘wet markets’. Wet markets are an important source of affordable food and livelihood for millions of people all over the world. But in many places, they have been poorly regulated and poorly maintained. WHO’s position is that when these markets are allowed to reopen, it should only be on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards.

“Governments must rigorously enforce bans on the sale and trade of wildlife for food. WHO has worked closely with the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to develop guidance on the safe operation of markets. Because an estimated 70% of all new viruses come from animals, we also work together closely to understand and prevent pathogens crossing from animals to humans.

“Finally, WHO is committed to keeping the world informed in as many ways as possible, in as many languages as possible. Our Viber chatbot is now reaching 2.6 million people with reliable, evidence-based information, and is available in 16 languages. This week we launched Tamil, Sinhala, Bulgarian, Greek, Italian and Hungarian, and we plan to launch Polish and Bangla next week,” he added. (eom)

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