Coronavirus: WHO warns against complacency

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Salvatore di Nolfi/EPA
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Salvatore di Nolfi/EPA

One of the dangers the world must avoid in the wake of the rampaging coronavirus pandemic is complacency and this must be avoided, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said on Wednesday.

Mr Ghebreyesus warned against complacency as countries continue to confront COVID-19 and citizens grow weary of stay-at-home measures aimed at preventing the spread of the disease in many countries, which he added would be a long term challenge.

“One of the greatest dangers we face now is complacency. People in countries with stay-at-home orders are understandably frustrated with being confined to their homes for weeks on end,” he said.

In a  virtual press conference shared on Twitter, he said most countries are still at the very early stages of their epidemics, while some that had been affected earlier are now starting to see a resurgence in cases.

“Make no mistake. We have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time,” he said.

The global COVID-19 caseload has passed 2.5 million with more than 160,000 deaths.

While the pandemic in Western Europe appears to be stable or declining, “worrying upward trends” are visible in Africa, Central America, South America and Eastern Europe, despite low case numbers.

Mr Ghebreyesus said even though lockdown and physical distancing have helped suppress transmission in many countries, the virus remains “extremely dangerous”.

Most of the global population continues to be highly susceptible, which means epidemics can easily re-ignite, he added

‘People are tired of their homes’

“One of the greatest dangers we face now is complacency. People in countries with stay-at-home orders are understandably frustrated with being confined to their homes for weeks on end,” he said.

“People understandably want to get on with their lives, because their lives and livelihoods are at stake. That’s what WHO wants too. And that’s what we are working for, all day, every day,” he added.

He said “moving forward will have to mean accepting a new normal and forging a world that is healthier, safer and better prepared”.

Mr Ghebreyesus enumerated the six public health measures WHO has been advocating since the pandemic started, which revolves around detection, isolation, testing, treatment and quarantine

“The last step involves educating and empowering the public.

“Countries that don’t do these six central things, and do them consistently, will see more cases, and more lives will be lost,” Mr Ghebreyesus said

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Telecommunications companies across the world were advised to support a WHO initiative to provide coronavirus information through text messages, announced earlier this week in conjunction with sister UN agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The aim is to help reach the half of the global population who lack internet access, starting in the Asia-Pacific region before a global rollout.

“We also issued a call with the World Trade Organisation, calling on countries to ensure the normal cross-border flow of vital medical supplies and other goods and services, and to resolve unnecessary disruptions to global supply chains,” he said

He said agencies collaborating with WHO need to ensure these products reach those in need quickly.

Solidarity, not stigma

The official also said there have been “disturbing reports” about COVID-19 discrimination in many countries, and in all regions.

“Stigma and discrimination are never acceptable anywhere at anytime, and must be fought in all countries”, he said, adding, “as I have said many times, this is a time for solidarity, not stigma”.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how many nations, including Nigeria now have to battle the scourge of stigma against infected persons who have now recovered.


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