The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that some countries have not taken the COVID-19 epidemic seriously, saying their level of political commitment and actions is not commensurate to the level of the threat faced globally.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said this during the daily media briefing on COVID-19 on Thursday, March 5, 2020.
Ghebreyesus stressed that the epidemic was a threat for every country, rich or poor, adding that even high-income countries should expect surprises.
“The solution is aggressive preparedness,” he said.
According to him, countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades, saying now is the time to act on those plans.
“These are plans that start with leadership from the top, coordinating every part of government, not just the health ministry – security, diplomacy, finance, commerce, transport, trade, information and more – the whole government should be involved.
“Activate your emergency plans through that whole-government approach.
“Educate your public, so that people know what the symptoms are and know how to protect themselves and others.
“Increase your testing capacity; get your hospitals ready; ensure essential supplies are available.
“Train your health workers to identify cases, provide careful and compassionate treatment, and protect themselves from infection,” he said.
He emphasised that if countries act aggressively to find, isolate and treat cases, to trace every contact, they can change the trajectory of the epidemic.
“If we take the approach that there is nothing we can do, that will quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is in our hands,” he said.
Ghebreyesus said that WHO has published a step-by-step guidelines for countries to develop their national action plans according to eight key areas, which are supported by detailed technical guidance.
“We call on all countries to accelerate those plans, and we stand ready to work with them to do that.
“More funding is being made available to support countries that need it, and that have plans in place,” he said.
He noted that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have both made funds available to stabilise health systems and mitigate the economic consequences of the epidemic.
According to him, the fund has a special focus on enabling access to critical supplies and equipment, and available to countries who need it, in line with WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.
“These funds are essential for supporting the response now, but also for long-term preparedness,” he said.
Ghebreyesus said that people’s fear about the virus could be managed and moderated with accurate information, saying WHO has launched a new social media campaign called “Be Ready for COVID-19”, which urges people to be safe, smart and informed.
“Ultimately, how deadly this virus will be depends not only on the virus itself, but on how we respond to it. This is a serious disease. It is not deadly to most people, but it can kill.
“We are all responsible for reducing our own risk of infection, and if we are infected, for reducing our risk of infecting others.
“There is something all of us can do to protect vulnerable people in our communities. That is why we keep talking about solidarity.
“This is not just a threat for individual people, or individual countries. We are all in this together, and we can only save lives together,” he said
He disclosed that there are now 95,265 reported cases of COVID-19 globally, and 3281 deaths.
Ghebreyesus said that China reported 143 cases, outside China, 2055 cases were reported in 33 countries.
By Oluwafunke Ishola