Briefing from World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Secretary General of the United Nations
Brief summary of presentation of information made
Secretary General António Guterres - May 4, 2020
In the span of a few short months, COVID-19 has spread to every corner of the world, infecting more than 3.3 million people, and claiming more than 230,000 lives.
Comprehensive, coordinated public health measures are critical to slow transmission and to save lives.
But even countries that have taken such steps remain in jeopardy.
And the virus is still likely to strike many countries that are least able to cope.
In an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us are safe.
The Secretary General was very happy to join the World Health Organization and an initial group of health actors to launch the ACT Accelerator – a landmark global collaboration to speed up the development, production and equitable access to new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
These new tools can help to fully control the pandemic and must be treated as global public goods available and affordable for all.
This is the only path to a world free of COVID-19.
But this will require the most massive public health effort in history.
The generous contributions being announced towards the initial goal of 7.5 billion Euros. These funds are a kind of a down payment for developing the new tools at the speed needed.
But to reach everyone, everywhere, we will likely need five times that amount. Calling on all partners to join in this effort.
April 28, 2020 – Director General of World Health Organization – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
As of April 27, 2020, it will be three months since the Director General of WHO, declared a public health emergency of international concern over the outbreak of novel coronavirus.
WHO wants to look back at the period preceding that announcement, to be clear about what WHO knew, and what they did.
On the 31st of December, WHO’s Epidemic Intelligence System picked up a report about a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China.
The following day, New Year’s Day, WHO asked China for more information under the International Health Regulations, and activated their Incident Management Support Team, to coordinate the response across headquarters, and their regional and country offices.
On the 2nd of January, WHO informed the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network – or GOARN – which includes more than 260 institutions in more than 70 countries.
On the 3rd of January, China provided information to WHO through a face-to-face meeting in Beijing, and through WHO’s Event Information System established under the International Health Regulations.
On the 4th of January, WHO reported the cluster of cases on Twitter. At that stage, no deaths were reported.
On the 5th of January, WHO shared detailed technical information through its Event Information System. This included advice to all Member States and IHR contact points to take precautions to reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections providing guidance on the basis that there could be human-to-human transmission.
On the same day, WHO also issued its first public Disease Outbreak News, publishing technical information for the scientific and public health communities, as well as the world’s media.
On the 10th and 11th of January, WHO published a comprehensive package of guidance on how to detect, test for and manage cases, and protect health workers from potential human-to-human transmission, based on their previous experience with coronaviruses.
WHO also published a readiness checklist to help countries assess their capacities and gaps for detection and response.
Because Wuhan is a major domestic and international transport hub, WHO also advised that the risk of cases being reported from outside Wuhan was increased.
On the 11th of January, China shared the genetic sequence of the virus for countries to use in developing testing kits.
On the same day, China reported the first death from the new coronavirus.
On the 13th of January, the first case was reported outside China, in Thailand.
That day, working with partners, WHO published the first instructions for how to make PCR-based diagnostic test kits, enabling the world to find cases.
On the 14th of January, WHO tweeted reports from China that preliminary investigations by Chinese authorities had found no clear evidence that human-to-human transmission was occurring.
This is in line with WHO’s practice of reporting to the world information that countries report to WHO. WHO post country reports as is.
However, earlier the same day, WHO held a press briefing at which they said that, based on their experience with coronaviruses, human-to-human transmission was likely. Senior experts participated in that press conference, and that news was carried by mainstream media.
On the 20th and 21st of January, WHO staff visited Wuhan, and on the 22nd, reported that the evidence suggested human-to-human transmission was occurring.
On the 22nd and 23rd of January, WHO convened the Emergency Committee, consisting of 15 independent experts from around the world. At the time, 581 cases had been reported, and only 10 cases outside China. The Emergency Committee was divided in its opinion and did not advise that we declare a public health emergency of international concern.
The Committee asked to be reconvened in 10 days or less to allow time for more information and evidence to be collected and considered.
On the 27th of January, Dr. Tedro traveled to Beijing with WHO’s chief of emergencies, Dr Mike Ryan, and other senior WHO staff, and met with President Xi Jinping and other leaders to learn more about the response and offer WHO’s assistance.
WHO discussed the seriousness of the situation, and agreed that an international team of scientists should travel to China to look into the outbreak and the response, including experts from China, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Singapore and the United States of America.
On the 30th of January, Dr. Tedros reconvened the Emergency Committee and after receiving their advice, because of the new information gathered they had a consensus, Dr. Tedros declared a global public health emergency – WHO’s highest level of alarm.
At the time, there were less than 100 cases and no deaths outside China. To be specific, there were 82 cases outside China, and no deaths, when WHO declared the highest level of international emergency.
From the beginning, WHO has acted quickly and decisively to respond and to warn the world.
WHO sounded the alarm early, and WHO sounded it often.
WHO said repeatedly that the world had a window of opportunity to prepare and to prevent widespread community transmission.
WHO started their early press conference. People were saying the world will be tired of you if you are making a press conference every day, but WHO continued with the press conferences.
WHO wanted to make sure the world understood what WHO was trying to get across the globally community.
WHO is committed to transparency and accountability.
In accordance with the International Health Regulations, Dr. Tedros will reconvene the Emergency Committee because it’s almost 3 months since WHO declared the highest emergency and that’s what was suggested by the Emergency Committee to evaluate the evolution of the pandemic, and to advise on updated recommendations.
In the three months since the Emergency Committee last met, WHO has worked day in, day out to sound the alarm, support countries and save lives.
WHO have worked with countries to help them prepare and respond.
WHO has brought countries together to share experiences and lessons learned.
WHO has brought together thousands of experts to analyze the evolving evidence and distil it into guidance.
WHO has convened researchers to identify priorities, from all over the world.
WHO has launched a large international trial to find answers fast about which drugs are the most effective.
WHO has brought together a consortium of countries and partners to accelerate the development and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics.
WHO has shipped millions of test kits and tons of protective gear all around the world, focusing on those countries who need their support most.
WHO has trained more than 2 million health workers – to be exact, 2.3 million health workers around the world. WHO does not think that will be enough and will train more.
WHO has worked with tech companies to fight the pandemic.
WHO has kept the world informed in multiple ways, including regular press conferences.
WHO has shared the grief and pain of so many people around the world and shares the hope that we will overcome this pandemic together.
There is one thing WHO has not done: they have not given up.
Their commitment remains to serving all the people of the world with science, solidarity, and solutions, but above all with humility and respect to all people and nations.
WHO is now working to provide the critical strategies, solutions and supplies that countries will need in the coming weeks and months.
One thing that WHO would ask is unity at the national level, and solidarity at the global level. More than ever, humanity should stand together to defeat this virus.
This virus can wreak havoc. It is more dangerous than any terrorist attack.
It can bring political, economic, and social upheavals. But the choice is ours, and the choice should be unity at the national level. The choice should be global solidarity, standing in unity.
May 6, 2020 – Director General of World Health Organization – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
More than 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 250,000 deaths have now been reported to WHO.
Since the beginning of April, an average of around 80,000 new cases have been reported to WHO every day.
But these are not just numbers – every single case is a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a brother, sister, or friend.
Although the number of cases reported from Western Europe is declining, more cases are being reported every day from Eastern Europe, Africa, South-East Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Americas.
However, even within regions and within countries we see divergent trends.
Every country and every region needs a tailored approach.
But the impact of the pandemic goes far beyond the numbers of cases and deaths.
Around the world, the pandemic has caused severe disruption to essential health services including to community-based health care.
Although professional health workers like doctors and nurses play crucial roles, in many countries trained members of the community play a vital role in delivering essential health services like vaccination, pre-natal screening, and the detection, prevention and management of many diseases.
WHO, UNICEF and the International Federation of the Red Cross have published guidance for countries on how to maintain community-based health care in the context of COVID-19.
It includes practical recommendations for countries on sustaining essential services at the community level, leveraging community health workers for the response to COVID-19 while keeping them safe, and advice for how to adapt services for specific diseases and age groups.
It is also vital that countries pay careful attention to the most vulnerable members of their societies.
Crises can exacerbate existing inequalities, which is demonstrated in higher rates of hospitalization and death among certain populations in many countries.
The pandemic will not end until we address the inequalities that are fueling it.
The framework lays out a “recovery roadmap” for countries to protect lives and livelihoods and get businesses and economies up and running again as soon as possible.
Importantly, the framework takes a “health first” approach, recognizing that strong and resilient health systems must be the foundation of recovery in all countries.
As more and more countries consider how to ease so-called lockdown restrictions, we want to reiterate the six criteria that WHO recommends countries considers.
1. First, that surveillance is strong, cases are declining, and transmission is controlled.
2. Second, that health system capacities are in place to detect, isolate, test and treat every case and trace every contact.
3. Third, that outbreak risks are minimized in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes.
4. Fourth, that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools, and other places where it is essential for people to go.
5. Fifth, that importation risks can be managed.
6. Sixth, that communities are fully educated, engaged, and empowered to adjust to the “new norm”.
The risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully, and in a phased approach.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of strong national and sub-national health systems as the foundation of global health security and universal health coverage.
Strong and resilient health systems are the best defense not only against outbreaks and pandemics, but also against the multiple health threats that people around the world face every day.
On the current trends, more than 5 billion people will lack access to essential health services by 2030 – including the ability to see a health worker, access to essential medicines, and running water in hospitals.
Gaps like these do not just undermine the health of individuals, families, and communities; they also put global security and economic development at risk.
The best investments are in promoting health and preventing disease at the primary health care level, which will save lives and save money. Prevention is not only better than cure, it is cheaper, and the smartest thing to do.
The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually recede, but there can be no going back to business as usual.
As we work on responding to this pandemic, we must also work harder to prepare for the next one.
That includes systems to prepare, prevent and respond to emerging pathogens.
If we learn anything from COVID-19, it must be that investing in health now will save lives later.
History will judge all of us not only on whether we got through this pandemic, but also on the lessons we learned and the actions we took once it was over.
The antidote for this pandemic is national unity and global solidarity. Together, we will defeat COVID-19.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
Because we have community-based health care systems in place this give our health care workers who are working in communities the opportunity to keep abreast of the information coming out about COVID-19 and for those in leadership to share the information.
We have trained members of our communities that play a vital role in delivering essential health services like vaccination, pre-natal screening, and the detection, prevention and management of many diseases especially in communities of the global south that should be kept informed. This also give us the opportunity to work with the United Nations Field Offices to share what we are doing.
We can keep our community health workers informed for the response to COVID-19 while keeping them safe and keeping them advised on information coming out from the World Health Organization.
Keeping our communities educated, engaged, and empowered to adjust to the new norm. That includes our Corps, Community Centers, Adult Rehabilitation Centers, and any other services that we render to people.
Making sure preventive measures are in place in workplaces, and other places where it is essential for people to go including our places of worship.
Web links for more information
A UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/A%20UN%20framework%20for%20the%20immediate%20socio-economic%20response%20to%20COVID-19%2C%20April%202020.pdf
COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/GHRP-COVID19_MayUpdate.pdfTags: United Nations, Social Justice