No country can just pretend pandemic is over: WHO chief

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GENEVA: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that he wants to see children returning to school and people going back to work, but at the same time, no country can just pretend that the global Covid-19 pandemic is over.

Addressing a virtual press conference in Geneva on Monday, he said that if countries are serious about opening up, they must be serious about suppressing transmission and saving lives, reports Xinhua news agency. “Opening up without having control is a recipe for disaster,” Tedros said.

He stressed that there are four essential things that need to be done — prevent amplifying events; reduce deaths by protecting vulnerable groups; individuals must play their part; governments must take tailored actions to find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine contacts.

According to the WHO chief, decisions about how and when to allow gatherings of people must be taken with a risk-based approach and in the local context. Meanwhile, a latest survey conducted by WHO among over 100 countries showed that 90 per cent of the nations have experienced disruption to their health services due to the ongoing pandemic.

In Monday’s conference, Tedros said that according to the survey, low- and middle-income countries have been the most affected. “The survey shows that up to 70 per cent of services have been disrupted for essential services including routine immunization, diagnosis and treatment for non-communicable diseases, family planning and contraception, treatment for mental health disorders and cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“However, only 14 per cent of countries reported removing user fees, which WHO recommends to offset potential financial difficulties for patients,” he added. Tedros said that the WHO will continue to work with countries to provide tools to maintain essential services.

“For example, WHO is developing a Health Services Learning Hub, a web-based platform that will allow countries to share experiences and learn from each other.” As of Tuesday, the overall number of global coronavirus cases stood at 25,405,556 and the fatalities rose to 849,303.

The US accounted for the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 6,028,617 and 183,579 respectively, while Brazil came in the second with 3,908,272 infections and 121,381 fatalities.

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