From Our Bureau    

5TH JUNE 2020

The Corona Virus (CPVID-19) pandemic situation remained grim globally, with the confirmed cases across the world soaring to 65,35,354 and the death toll reaching 3,87,155 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 in terms of fatalities with 22,30,706 confirmed cases and 1,82,165 deaths. American region came next with 30,84,517 confirmed cases and 1,72,276 deaths. Eastern Mediterranean region reported 5,87,030 confirmed cases and 13,720 deaths.

Western Pacific region’s tally stood at 1,88,393 confirmed cases and 7,081 deaths. South-East Asia region recorded 3,22,863 confirmed cases and 8,942 deaths and African region witnessed 1,21,104 confirmed cases and 2,958 deaths. WHO Risk Assessment at global level remained very high.

At the media briefing on COVID-19 today, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced updated guidance on the use of masks for the control of COVID-19. This guidance is based on evolving evidence, and provides updated advice on who should wear a mask, when it should be worn and of what it should be made.

Digital tools offer opportunities to strengthen contact tracing for COVID-19. WHO has published interim guidance on considerations, opportunities and challenges of integrating digital tools into contact tracing methods.

WHO has published interim guidance for the poliomyelitis (polio) surveillance network in the context of COVID-19. One of its aims is to highlight the decision-making framework to guide the level of polio surveillance activities at country level in the context of the ongoing pandemic.

A nurse who was infected with, and recovered from, COVID-19 in Austria shares his experience and how he uses this experience to lift the spirits of his patients, colleagues, and friends who have been affected by COVID19.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, air passenger and cargo services have been severely disrupted.  To address the impact of the pandemic, the International Civil Aviation Organization has published ‘Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis’.  

Subject in Focus: Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on global air transport. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) estimates that global passenger traffic at airports will decrease by 50 per cent in 2020, compared to 2019 figures – with up to 71 per cent reduced seat capacity and up to 1.5 billion fewer passengers globally. According to ICAO, airlines and airports face a potential loss of revenue of up to US$ 314 billion and US$ 100 billion respectively, for 2020.

ICAO’s Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) was established on 9 March 2020 to address the challenges of COVID-19 and to provide global guidance for a safe, secure and sustainable restart and recovery of the aviation sector. This task force is composed of representatives from Member States and international, regional and industry organizations, including WHO and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The task force has recently published ‘Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis’, a document that lays out a set of measures aimed at reducing health risks to air travellers, aviation workers, and the general public.

The document provides a framework for addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global aviation transportation system and is divided in two sections.

The first section contains risk mitigation measures that apply generally to air passenger and cargo transport, such as: public education, physical distancing, face covering and masks, routine sanitation, health screening, contact tracing, health declarations and testing.

The second section describes, in four operational modules, the risk mitigation measures applicable to airport, aircraft, crew and cargo.

When implementing these measures, care should be taken to follow all applicable laws, regulations, requirements, standards, and guidance issued by relevant sub-national, national and international authorities. Nothing in these guidelines is intended to supersede or contradict such requirements.

ICAO endorses a phased approach to make possible the safe return to high-volume domestic and international air travel for passengers and cargo. Risk-based stages for mitigation measures will also contribute to the efficient, safe, secure, and sustainable transport by air of an increasing number of passengers and cargo.

At the media briefing, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros said: “First of all, I’d like to thank all donors who stepped up yesterday to fully fund GAVI for its next five-year cycle. This is a vital investment in saving millions of lives from vaccine-preventable diseases. WHO looks forward to working with GAVI to realise the power of vaccines for everyone, everywhere.”

Today WHO is publishing updated guidance on the use of masks for control of COVID-19.

This guidance is based on evolving evidence, and provides updated advice on who should wear a mask, when it should be worn and what it should be made of.  WHO has developed this guidance through a careful review of all available evidence, and extensive consultation with international experts and civil society groups.

“I wish to be very clear that the guidance we are publishing today is an update of what we have been saying for months: that masks should only ever be used as part of a comprehensive strategy in the fight against COVID. Masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19,” he observed.   

“Here is what has not changed: WHO continues to recommend that people who are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 should remain at home, and should consult their health care provider. People confirmed to have COVID-19 should be isolated and cared for in a health facility and their contacts should be quarantined. If it is absolutely necessary for a sick person or a contact to leave the house, they should wear a medical mask.

“WHO continues to advise that people caring for an infected person at home should wear a medical mask while they are in the same room as the sick person. And WHO continues to advise that health workers use medical masks and other protective equipment when dealing with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.

“Here is what’s new: In areas with widespread transmission, WHO advises medical masks for all people working in clinical areas of a health facility, not only workers dealing with patients with COVID-19. That means, for example, that when a doctor is doing a ward round on the cardiology or palliative care units where there are no confirmed COVID-19 patients, they should still wear a medical mask. 

“Second, in areas with community transmission, we advise that people aged 60 years or over, or those with underlying conditions, should wear a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible. Third, WHO has also updated its guidance on the use of masks by the general public in areas with community transmission.

“In light of evolving evidence, WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments. 

“Our updated guidance contains new information on the composition of fabric masks, based on academic research requested by WHO. Based on this new research, WHO advises that fabric masks should consist of at least three layers of different material. Details of which materials we recommend for each layer are in the guidelines.

“We also provide guidance on how to wash and maintain a fabric mask. Our guidance also explains how to use a mask safely. People can potentially infect themselves if they use contaminated hands to adjust a mask, or to repeatedly take it off and put it on, without cleaning hands in between.

“Masks can also create a false sense of security, leading people to neglect measures such as hand hygiene and physical distancing. I cannot say this clearly enough: masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19. Masks are not a replacement for physical distancing, hand hygiene and other public health measures. Masks are only of benefit as part of a comprehensive approach in the fight against COVID-19.

“The cornerstone of the response in every country must be to find, isolate, test and care for every case, and to trace and quarantine every contact. That is what we know works. That is every country’s best defense against COVID-19. WHO will continue to provide the world with advice based on the most up-to-date evidence, as part of our commitment to serving the world with science, solutions and solidarity,” he pointed out. (eom)

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