Amid the still on-going crisis, where globally more than 210,000 cases have been reported and more than 9,000 people have lost their lives, there are also successes.
Wuhan in China, where the outbreak of the coronavirus started, reported no new cases on Friday for the first time since the outbreak.
“Wuhan provides hope for the rest of the world, that even the most severe situation can be turned around,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at yesterday’s (20 March) virtual press conference.
“Of course, we must exercise caution – the situation can reverse. But the experience of cities and countries that have pushed back this virus give hope and courage to the rest of the world,” he added.
The WHO Director-General said that the world is learning more about the virus every day. Although older people are the hardest hit, younger people are not spared. Data from many countries clearly show that people under 50 make up a significant proportion of patients requiring hospitalization.
“Today, I have a message for young people: you are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks, or even kill you,” he warned. “As I keep saying, solidarity is the key to defeating COVID-19 – solidarity between countries, but also between age groups.” He repeated the word “solidarity” three times.
“During this difficult time, it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. This will not only help you in the long-term, it will also help you fight COVID-19 if you get it,” the WHO Director-General explained.
• First, eat a health and nutritious diet, which helps your immune system to function properly.
• Second, limit your alcohol consumption, and avoid sugary drinks.
• Third, don’t smoke. Smoking can increase your risk of developing severe disease if you become infected with COVID-19.
• Fourth, exercise. WHO recommends 30 minutes of physical activity a day for adults, and one hour a day for children.
• If your local or national guidelines allow it, go outside for a walk, a run or a ride, and keep a safe distance from others. If you can’t leave the house, find an exercise video online, dance to music, do some yoga, or walk up and down the stairs.
• If you’re working at home, make sure you don’t sit in the same position for long periods. Get up and take a 3-minute break every 30 minutes.
Need of medical equipment
WHO is working actively to support all countries, and especially those that need its support the most. But there is not enough protective equipment, test kits and respirators.
“The collapse of the market for personal protective equipment (PPE) has created extreme difficulties in ensuring health workers have access to the equipment they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.”
Luckily, WHO has identified some producers in China who have agreed to supply WHO with protective equipment and is currently finalizing the arrangements and coordinating shipments so it can refill its warehouse to ship such equipment to whoever needs it most.
WHO is also working hard to increase the global supply of diagnostic tests, the Director-General said. “There are many companies globally that produce diagnostic kits, but WHO can only buy or recommend kits that have been evaluated independently, to ensure their quality.”
The World Health Organisation is working with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) to contract additional labs to evaluate new diagnostics. In parallel, it is working with companies to secure the supply and equitable distribution of these tests.
Another important issue is how to take care of all patients when hospitals, in many countries underfinanced for years and totally unprepared for the outbreak of the coronavirus, are overwhelmed by the increase in infected persons. Doctors risk having to take decisions who shall live and who shall die.
To tackle this dilemma, WHO has published guidelines on life-saving treatment as health systems are challenged, without compromising the safety of health workers. “The guidelines detail actions all countries can take to provide care for patients, regardless of how many cases they have,” he assured.