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Euronews 13 Feb 2020

WHO gives updates on the #coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19)

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WHO gives updates on the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19)


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, Health Emergencies Programme.

"Control measures must be lifted slowly and with control," UN health agency's chief Dr Tedros said as the rate of new coronavirus (COVID-19) infections continues to drop in many places around the world and governments looking into lifting the economy-sapping lockdowns.

"It cannot happen all at once," said Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) at a press briefing in Geneva on Monday (13 April). "While COVID-19 accelerates very fast, it decelerates very slowly. In other words, the way down is much slower than the way up."

Dr Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme joined Dr Tedros in cautioning against premature ending of the lockdowns.

"You can't replace lockdown with nothing. You must replace lockdown with a very deeply educated, committed, empowered and engaged community. We are going to have to change our behaviours for the foreseeable future," said Dr Ryan.

He also warned against putting too much confidence in facial masks to protect from the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

"Masks are not an alternative to lockdown," Dr Ryan underlined.

"We need much more information from recovered patients," said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical lead of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme.

"There's more than 300,000 people globally who have recovered. And we really need to better understand what that antibody response is. There are a number of studies that are underway that are looking at the antibody response using different serologic tests that are currently available," she said, adding that "right now we don't have a full picture of what immunity looks like. And until we do, we can't give a complete answer."

More than 110 000 people globally have died from COVID-19 so far, according to WHO. The agency recorded more than 1 700 000 cases of the disease in the world.
Originally broadcast live on 11th of May 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.


WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said, "Over the weekend we saw signs of the challenges that may lie ahead," with new cases reported in Wuhan and South Korea, and Germany reporting an increase in cases since easing restrictions.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva today (11 May), Tedros said bars and clubs in South Korea were shut "as a confirmed case led to many contacts being traced. In Wuhan, China, the first cluster of cases since their lockdown was lifted was identified. Germany has also reported an increase in cases since an easing of restrictions." Tedros added, "Fortunately, all three countries have systems in place to detect and respond to a resurgence in cases."

Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, said countries like Germany and South Korea should not be criticized, "for looking, for finding, for being alert, for being ready and reacting quickly and engaging quickly to investigate, to isolate, to trace and to track; because that's what we've been saying. The virus is still here."

SOUNDBITE (English) Michael Ryan, Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
"I think now we're seeing some hope as many countries exits these so-called lockdowns, and this is good. It allows economic life to return, but extreme vigilance is required and not just vigilance, Many countries, as the DG has said, have made very systematic investments in building up their public health capacities during the lockdowns. Others have not. And we need every country now to put in place the necessary public health measures or the public health surveillance in order to be able to at least have a chance of avoiding larger second waves later."

Ryan said there was an assumption as COVID-19 spread around the world that "we're really just seeing the severe cases and the difficult cases of when the seroepidemiology comes that will demonstrate that, most of the people have been affected, and this will all be over, and we'll go back to normal business." He noted however, that the preliminary results from the seroepidemiologic studies show the opposite, with the higher proportion clinically ill people "because the number of people infected in the total population is probably much lower than we expected."

The Executive Director said there is "very little evidence to suggest that there are people who are persistently suffering from COVID-19," although data from hospitals shows that recovery time in a hospital is very long.


WHO's Technical Lead for COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said there was "an alarming number" of healthcare worker infections, representing up to 10 percent of cases in some countries. She said WHO was continuing to better understand "where healthcare workers are getting infected, why healthcare workers are getting infected, and how can we ensure that this is reduced, and this stops."

Regarding children returnin to school, WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said decision makers should reflect on a number of key factors when deciding on whether and how to reopen the schools. He said, "First, a clear understanding about current COVID transmission and severity of the virus in children is needed. Second, the epidemiology of COVID-19 where the school is geographically located, needs to be considered. Third, the ability to maintain COVID-19 prevention and control measures within the school setting."
Originally broadcast live on 13th of May 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.


The Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, Micheal Ryan, said the virus causing COVID-19 "may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away."

Speaking at press conference today (13 May), Ryan said there was a "long, long way to go before there's going to be any bells unrung" in the COVID-19 response. He said countries are trying to find a path towards "a new normal as many people have put it, and we're going to be on that pathway for a long, long time."

SOUNDBITE (English) Michael Ryan, Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
"So, if you can get the day to day case number down to the lowest possible level and get as much virus out of the community as possible, then when you open, you will tend to have less transmission or much less risk. If you reopen in the presence of a high degree of virus transmission, then that transmission may accelerate. If that virus transmission accelerates and you don't have the systems to detect it, it will be days or weeks before you know something's gone wrong. And by the time that happens, you're back into a situation where your only response is another lockdown. And I think this is what we all fear."

Ryan stressed that "very, very smart people are saying on the economic side that the worst thing that can happen is if we go out of a lockdown and then we don't do the health part right and we go back into a lockdown." He said doing this carried more danger for the economic system than the health system because if the health system is given time to recover, then it can cope with another rise in cases. He added that the health system "can probably do that a few times. I'm not sure how many times do economic system can do that."


The Executive Director stressed that the success criteria of lifting lockdown should not be "by counting the cases in the ICUs or counting the bodies in the morgue." He said the way to know that the disease is coming back is to "have community-based surveillance, to be testing and to know the problem is coming back, and then be able to adjust your public health measures accordingly." He added, "Let us not go back to a situation where we don't know what's happening until our hospitals are overflowing. That is not a good way to do business."


At the top of that press conference, WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus condemned yesterday's hospital attack in Kabul. He said, "As the world celebrated nurses, I was shocked and appalled to hear of the attack on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan, which led to the deaths of nurses, mothers and babies."
CGTN's Anand Naidoo spoke with World Health Organization spokesperson Margaret Harris about China's measures and efforts in fighting the #coronavirus outbreak and what it needs moving forward.

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