From Our Bureau    

15th MAY 2020        

The Corona Virus (CPVID-19) pandemic situation remained grim globally, with the confirmed cases across the world soaring to 43,38,658 and the death toll reaching 2,97,119 in the 216 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 18,26,295 confirmed cases and 1,63,277 deaths. American region came next with 18,64,468 confirmed cases and 1,11,934 deaths. Eastern Mediterranean region reported 3,05,189 confirmed cases and 9,558 deaths.

Western Pacific region’s tally stood at 1,65,550 confirmed cases and 6,664 deaths. South-East Asia region recorded 1,22,254 confirmed cases and 4,050 deaths and African region witnessed 54,190 confirmed cases and 1,623 deaths. WHO Risk Assessment at global level remained very high.

WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, urged countries in the region to lift public health and social measures (so-called lockdowns) in a graded manner and that Local epidemiology should guide focused action in ‘new normal’ COVID-19 world.

WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, emphasized that “our behaviour today, will set the course for the pandemic” and highlighted how behavioural insights are valuable to inform the planning of appropriate pandemic response measures.

A UN policy brief on COVID-19 and mental health warns that substantial investment is needed to avert a mental health crisis. Reports already indicate an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety in several countries.

At the media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that researchers are working at breakneck speed both to understand the virus and also to develop potential vaccines, medicines and other technologies.

“The Access to COVID-19 Accelerator is uniting efforts on many fronts to ensure we have safe, effective and affordable therapeutics and vaccines in the shortest time possible. These tools provide additional hope of overcoming COVID-19, but they will not end the pandemic if we cannot ensure equitable access to them,” he added.

“In these extraordinary circumstances, we need to unleash the full power of science, to deliver innovations that are scalable, usable, and benefit everyone, everywhere, at the same time. Traditional market models will not deliver at the scale needed to cover the entire globe. Solidarity within and between countries and the private sector is essential if we are to overcome these difficult times,” he observed.

“Now is the moment where leaders must come together to develop a new global access policy and an operational tool, which will turn the many good intentions expressed in recent weeks into reality. We are seeing some good examples where companies are coming out with solidarity approaches – from open licensing and support, to tech transfer via the new Tech Access Partnership, to commitments not to increase prices in times of shortages.

“WHO recognizes the wide-ranging efforts and initiatives aimed at incentivizing innovation

while also ensuring access for all. These will be important topics next week at the World Health Assembly. Global solidarity will accelerate science and expand access so that together we can overcome the virus. Until everyone is protected, the world will remains at risk.

“Next week, one of the most important World Health Assembly’s will take place since we were founded in 1948. I am looking forward to greeting and working with leaders from across the world to ensure that together we optimise the COVID-19 response and build back stronger health systems.

“Over the past few months, across the world, we have shown that when countries implement a comprehensive strategy they can effectively contain and suppress the spread of the virus, while minimizing the impact on lives and livelihoods. The pandemic has shown again, and in the strongest way possible, that investing in health is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.

“There’s no trade-off between investing in health and your economy. Health is an investment in our collective future.  Funding quality health for all, doesn’t just save lives; it means children are healthy and can go to school; people can go to work to earn a living and societies and economies are both stronger and more sustainable.

“WHO released a policy brief on gender and COVID-19, which encourages countries to incorporate a gender focus into their responses.  It includes six key asks for governments:

First, when recording cases, collect both age and sex-disaggregated data; Second, prevent and respond effectively to issues of domestic violence, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic; Third, encourage availability and access to sexual and reproductive health services; Fourth, protect and support all health workers, approximately 70 percent of the whom are women; Fifth, ensure equitable access to testing and treatment for COVID-19; And finally; sixth, ensure responses are both inclusive and non-discriminatory. To maximise effectiveness and ensure that no one is left behind, tackling the pandemic requires a gender-responsive, equity-oriented and human rights-based approach.

“WHO is releasing a Scientific Brief on Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children.  In the past weeks, reports from Europe and North America have described a small number of children being admitted to intensive care units with a multisystem inflammatory condition with some features similar to Kawasaki’s disease and toxic shock syndrome.  Initial reports hypothesise that this syndrome may be related to COVID-19. It is critical to urgently and carefully characterise this clinical syndrome, to understand causality and to describe treatment interventions.

“Together with our global clinical network for COVID-19, WHO has developed a preliminary case definition and a case report form for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. I call on all clinicians worldwide to work with your national authorities and WHO to be on the alert and better understand this syndrome in children and WHO to be on the alert and better understand this syndrome in children,” the WHO Director-General observed. (eom)

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