From Our Bureau    

19TH JUNE 2020

The Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic situation remained grim globally, with the confirmed cases across the world soaring to 83,85,440 and the death toll reaching 4,50,686 in the 216 affected countries and territories, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Globally, American region continued to be the worst-hit with 40,92,526 confirmed cases and 2,12,517 deaths. Europe came next with 24,90,815 confirmed cases and 1,90,903 deaths. Eastern Mediterranean region reported 8,56,650 confirmed cases and 19,041 deaths.

South-East Asia region’s tally stood at 5,41,041 confirmed cases and 16,360 deaths. Western Pacific region recorded 2,02,489 confirmed cases and 7,257 deaths and African region registered 2,01,178 confirmed cases and 4,595 deaths. WHO Risk Assessment at global level remained very high.

The hydroxychloroquine arm of the Solidarity Trial, which seeks to find an effective COVID-19 treatment, is being stopped. The decision is based on evidence from the Solidarity Trial, UK’s Recovery trial and a Cochrane review of other evidence on hydroxychloroquine. Data shows that hydroxychloroquine does not result in the reduction of mortality of hospitalised COVID-19 patients, when compared with standard of care.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the roll out of the WHO Academy, a major new initiative as part of WHO’s transformation. With the WHO Academy, WHO aims to build one of the world’s largest and most innovative digital learning platforms to enhance the competencies of health professionals. So far, courses on the have received almost 3.5 million enrolments on 12 topics in 31 languages.

Several countries affected by COVID-19 have seen increases in levels of violence occurring in the home, including violence against children, intimate partner violence and violence against older people. A new brief, addressing violence against children, women and older people during the COVID-19 pandemic, outlines key actions that the health sector can undertake to prevent or mitigate interpersonal violence.

“The pandemic is accelerating. More than 150 thousand new cases of COVID-19 were reported to WHO yesterday – the most in a single day so far. Almost half of those cases were reported from the Americas, with large numbers also being reported from South Asia and the Middle East. The world is in a new and dangerous phase. Many people are understandably fed up with being at home. Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies,” Dr Tedros said in his media briefing.

“But the virus is still spreading fast, it’s still deadly, and most people are still susceptible. We call on all countries and all people to exercise extreme vigilance. Continue maintaining your distance from others. Stay home if you feel sick. Keep covering your nose and mouth when you cough. Wear a mask when appropriate. Keep cleaning your hands,” he told the people.

“We continue to call on all countries to focus on the basics: find, isolate, test and care for every case. Trace and quarantine every contact. As the pandemic gathers pace, it’s the most vulnerable who will suffer the most. All countries rich and poor have populations who are vulnerable to a higher risk of severe disease and death,” he pointed out.

  “Tomorrow is World Refugee Day – an important moment to highlight the risks of COVID-19 for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Refugees are particularly at risk of COVID-19 because they often have limited access to adequate shelter, water, nutrition, sanitation, and health services. Over 80 per cent of the world’s refugees and nearly all the world’s internally displaced people are hosted in low- and middle-income countries,” he observed.

“WHO is deeply concerned about the very real and present danger of widespread transmission of COVID-19 in refugee camps. Beyond the health threat posed by the virus, COVID-19 is also exposing many refugees to even more severe hardship. A report published today by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement shows that about 70 percent of refugees surveyed in Turkey reported having lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic,” he said.

“We have a shared duty to do everything we can to prevent, detect and respond to transmission of COVID-19 among refugee populations. Public health measures that reduce transmission of COVID-19 require strict and sustained implementation. This is difficult to achieve in refugee camps, where the public health situation is weak.

“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. WHO’s mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our organizations are a natural fit and every day WHO and UNHCR work to strengthen the collaboration between our two agencies. Last month, our two organizations signed a new agreement to strengthen and advance public health services for the millions of forcibly displaced people around the world.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated that no one is safe until we’re all safe. Only by putting politics aside and working in true collaboration can we make a difference. We are most vulnerable when we are divided, but with solidarity and cooperation, we will overcome this pandemic, and be better prepared for the crises of the future.

“Today we are also honoured to be joined online by two WHO colleagues who are working with refugees. First, I would like to introduce Dr Iman Shankiti, WHO’s representative in Lebanon. Lebanon is a country of 6 million people, of which 1.5 million are refugees, mainly Syrian and Palestinian. There are also more than half a million migrant workers. Dr Iman is currently leading the overall response to COVID-19 in Lebanon.

“Now I would like to invite Mr Chuol Puok Jock who is currently leading the COVID-19 response in the Gambella region in Ethiopia. Ethiopia hosts more than 700 000 refugees in 8 different regions. More than 40 percent of the refugee population is hosted in 7 camps in the Gambella region,” the WHO Director-General said. (eom) 

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