From Our Bureau

20th April 2020

The Corona Virus (CPVID-19) pandemic situation continued to remain grim globally, with the confirmed cases across the world jumping to 23,14,359 and the death toll mounting to 1,57,551 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 11,49,071 confirmed cases and 1,03,586 deaths. American region came next with 8,58,631 confirmed cases and 40,615 deaths. Western Pacific region’s tally stood at 1,32,438 confirmed cases and 5,648 deaths. Eastern Mediterranean region reported 1,29,433 confirmed cases and 6,048 deaths. South-East Asia region recorded 29,576 confirmed cases and 1,275 deaths and African region witnessed 14,760 confirmed cases and 662 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. The urgent need for a COVID-19 vaccine underscores the pivotal role immunizations play in protecting lives and economies. Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, marking the European Immunization Week 2020, stressed ‘we must not, especially now, let down our guard on immunizations’. WHO and UNICEF have released a joint statement to mark European Immunization Week 2020.

WHO has published a brief on the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in patients with COVID-19. Concerns have been raised that NSAIDs may be associated with an increased risk of adverse effects. However, as explained in the brief, at present there is no evidence of severe adverse effects.

WHO has recently published an updated strategy to help guide the public health response to COVID-19. An update on Emergency Medical Teams, the Global Health Cluster, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, and Risk Communications and Community Engagement is also provided.

At a media briefing on Monday, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyus, thanked the many musicians, comedians and humanitarians who made Saturday’s “One World, Together at Home” concert an enormous success. The event raised more than US$127 million to support several organizations responding to COVID-19, including US$55 million for WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund. The fund has now raised more than 194 million dollars from more than 270,000 individuals, corporations and foundations.

“Yesterday I had the honour of addressing health ministers from the G20 countries. I appreciate the expressions of support from many countries for WHO’s coordinating role and our technical guidance. I also appreciate the statements of the G77 and the Non-Aligned Movement expressing their strong support for WHO. As you know, the G77 – 133 countries and the Non-Aligned Movement, 120 countries. This is a big vote of confidence, and we thank NAM and we thank the G77 countries,” he said.

“WHO’s commitment is to science, solutions and solidarity. Our commitment is to supporting all countries to save lives. That’s it, that’s our intention. That’s what we’re for: saving lives. We’ve spoken previously about the factors countries must consider as they plan to start lifting so-called lockdown restrictions.  We want to re-emphasize that easing restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country,” he added. 

“Ending the epidemic will require a sustained effort on the part of individuals, communities and governments to continue suppressing and controlling this deadly virus. So-called lockdowns can help to take the heat out of a country’s epidemic, but they cannot end it alone.  Countries must now ensure they can detect, test, isolate and care for every case, and trace every contact,” he observed.

“We welcome the accelerated development and validation of tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies, which are helping us to understand the extent of infection in the population. WHO is providing technical, scientific and financial support for the rollout of sero-epidemiologic surveys across the world. Early data from some of these studies suggest that a relatively small percentage of the population may have been infected, even in heavily affected areas – not more than 2 to 3 percent,” he pointed out.

“While antibody tests are important for knowing who has been infected, tests that find the virus are a core tool for active case finding, diagnosis, isolation and treatment. One of WHO’s priorities is to work with partners to increase the production and equitable distribution of diagnostics to the countries that need them most. To achieve that, WHO has worked with FIND, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, to identify and validate five tests that can be manufactured in large quantities,” he explained. .

“Working together with the Global Fund, UNICEF and Unitaid, we have now placed orders for 30 million tests over the next four months. The first shipments of these tests will begin next week, through the United Nations Supply Chain we have established with the World Food Programme and other partners. Solidarity flights continue to ship lifesaving medical supplies across Africa to protect health workers, who are on the frontlines in the effort to save lives and slow the pandemic.  

“Over the past week, WHO has been working closely with the World Food Programme to deliver masks, goggles, test kits, face shields and other medical equipment to 40 countries.

This is part of the overarching drive to keep supply chains moving and ensure key supplies reach 120 priority countries. Through April and May we intend to ship almost 180 million surgical masks, 54 million N95 masks and more than 3 million protective goggles to countries that need them most. I also want to highlight the Jack Ma Foundation’s donation of 100 million masks, 1 million N95 masks and 1 million test kits to WHO. 

“We are also continuing to lead research and development efforts. So far, more than 100 countries have joined the Solidarity Trial to evaluate therapeutics for COVID-19, and 1,200 patients have been randomized from the first 5 countries.  This week, we expect that more than 600 hospitals will be ready to start enrolling patients. The faster we recruit patients, the faster we will get results,” he added. (eom)

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