Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID - 19): WHO Update (15 September 2020)
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, "the decision to close schools should be a last resort, temporary and only at a local level" in areas with intense COVID-19 transmission.
During today's WHO COVID-19 briefing Dr Tedros announced that "to support countries in every situation," UNESCO, UNICEF and WHO have published updated guidance on school-related public health measures in the context of COVID-19.
He said, "the guidance provides practical advice for schools in areas with no cases, sporadic cases, clusters of cases, or community transmission."
The WHO Director-General said, "during school closures, continuity of education should be guaranteed through distance learning," and stressed that "keeping children safe and at school is not a job for schools alone, or governments alone or families alone. It's a job for all of us, working together."
Briefing via video teleconference, UNESCO's Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, said, "the longer schools remain closed, the more damaging the consequences, especially for children from more disadvantaged backgrounds, who in addition to learning, rely on school for health, for safety and sometimes for nutrition."
Also briefing remotely, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore noted that "872 million students or half the world's student population in 51 countries are still unable to head back to their classrooms."
Fore said, "for at least 463 million children whose schools closed during COVID-19, there was no such thing as remote learning."
The UNICEF Executive Director said, "the sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is nothing short of a global education emergency."
For his part, WHO's Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Dr Mike Ryan said, "we have to sustain pressure on this virus. We have to reduce transmission at community level in order to lower the risk to those older and vulnerable people and to maintain an environment in which our children can continue to attend school. The only way to do that is that the adults separate themselves enough to drive transmission downwards."
Ryan said, "what is more important? Our children back at school? Or the nightclubs and the bars open? And I think these are decisions that we have to make coming into the winter months."
He said, "these are trade-offs," and "unfortunately, sometimes when you do this, you can't do the other one, you have to make those decisions."
The updated advice for policymakers and educators on running schools as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, looks at risk-based approaches for school operations, based on the level and intensity of transmission rates at lower schooling levels; age-appropriate considerations for measures such as physical distancing and masks in schools; and other measures to mitigate against COVID-19 in schools.
‘When the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready - more ready than it was this time," WHO's chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said to reporters in Geneva on Monday (7 Sep) adding "that means investing in population-based services for preventing, detecting and responding to disease."
"This will not be the last pandemic," warned Dr Tedros.
Also speaking at the press conference in Geneva on Monday, WHO's Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan, explained the process of certifying the efficiency and safety of a potential vaccine, while Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme elaborated on the WHO's quarantine recommendations.
For his part, Dr Mike Ryan Executive Director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme commented on disparities between the agency's and different governments' quarantine recommendations and requirements. Originally broadcast live on the 20th of July 2020, the daily press briefing on coronavirus COVID-19, direct from WHO Headquarters, Geneva Switzerland with Dr Tedros WHO Director-General, Dr Micheal Ryan, Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme and Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical lead COVID-19, WHO Health Emergencies Programme. Six months after the WHO declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today (27 Jul) said, "almost 16 million cases have now been reported to WHO, and more than 640,000 deaths. And the pandemic continues to accelerate."
Dr Tedros noted that in these past 6 weeks, "the total number of cases has roughly doubled."
He recalled that when the PHEIC was declared on 30 January "there were less than 100 cases outside of China, and no deaths."
The Emergency Committee of the WHO will be reconvened later this week to re-evaluate the pandemic and advise the Director-General.
The Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, Michael Ryan, said, "countries that have implemented control measures have suppressed the virus. And when those measures to suppress the virus are lifted, the virus returns. And I think what is clear is that pressure on the virus successfully pushes the numbers down, release pressure on the virus and the numbers can creep back up."
Ryan said, "whether we're dealing with second peaks within the first wave or second waves, in some senses is not the right question to ask. The question to ask is how much pressure do you have on the virus?"
WHO's COVID-19 Technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, said, "our new normal includes physical distancing from others. Our new normal includes wearing masks where appropriate. Our new normal includes us knowing where this virus is each and every day, where we live, where we work, where we want to travel. And that's going to be part of how we move forward with this, finding the balance between keeping the virus transmission low and resuming normal activities."
Turning to international travel, Ryan said, "it is possible to identify and to minimize the risks" through policies for the movement of people between one country and another.
Ryan said, "it is tough on people right now because as countries, like everybody else in the world, move through this period of continued uncertainty, it is difficult to get those travel measures absolutely right. You can open up and then have to shut down, and then open up and have to shut down. And some people say, well better to stay shut because that's more consistent, but it's also not making any progress. So how do you make progress with opening up national and international economies? How do you do that in a way that's least risky? But how do you do that in a way that you can pull back if you need to slow down or reverse? And that's the conundrum we're facing both in terms of national travel and international travel at the moment."
Dr Tedros announced that "new research led by WHO and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine shows that together we have achieved the global target set in 2000 to reduce the prevalence of hepatitis B infections in children under five years of age to less than one percent by 2020."
He said, "this landmark achievement means we will dramatically reduce the number of cases of liver cancer and cirrhosis in future generations."
According to the latest WHO COVID-19 situation report, 15,785,641 confirmed cases have been reported, resulting in confirmed 640,016 deaths.