Tomorrow marks 100 days since WHO was notified of first coronavirus cases

Photo: WAM

Tomorrow marks 100 days since the World Health Organisation, WHO, was notified of the first cases of "pneumonia with unknown cause" in China.

In the daily media briefing on COVID-19, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reflected on how dramatically the world has changed, in such a short period of time and gave an overview of what WHO has done in the past 100 days, and what will be done in the near future to alleviate suffering and save lives.

''On the 1st of January, just hours after we were notified of the first cases, WHO activated its Incident Management Support Team, to coordinate our response at headquarters, regional and country level.

On the 5th of January, WHO officially notified all Member States of this new outbreak, and published a disease outbreak news on our website,'' said Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus in his opening remarks during the virtual press conference.

He said the WHO counter-COVID-19 measures included a comprehensive package of guidance to countries on how to detect, test and manage potential cases, and protect health workers, declaration of a public health emergency of international concern – our highest level of alarm - after the first cases of human-to-human transmission were reported outside China.

''Through WHO’s network of 6 regional offices and 150 country offices, we’ve worked closely with governments around the world to prepare their health systems for COVID-19, and to respond when cases arrive.'' Financially, he added, governments and partners rose to the challenge and more than US$800 million has been pledged or received for the response.

"Since then, we have been working day and night in five key areas. First, we’ve worked to support countries in building their capacity to prepare and respond. Second, we’ve worked with numerous partners to provide accurate information and fight the infodemic, a term coined by the WHO to describe spreads of disinformation on the virus. We have worked with numerous media and tech companies including Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Messenger, Pinterest, SnapChat, Tencent, TikTok, Twitter, Viber, WhatsApp, YouTube and more to counter myths and misinformation with reliable, evidence-based advice.' Third, we’re working hard to ensure supplies of essential medical equipment for frontline health workers.

''So far, we’ve shipped more than 2 million items of personal protective equipment to 133 countries, and we’re preparing to ship another 2 million items in the coming weeks. We’ve sent more than 1 million diagnostic tests to 126 countries, in all regions, and we’re sourcing more. But we know much more is needed. This is not enough. Today we are launching the UN COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force, to dramatically scale up the supply of these life-saving tools, and match supply with needs. Fourth, we’re working to train and mobilise health workers. More than 1.2 million people have enrolled in 6 courses in 43 languages on our OpenWHO.org platform. Our target is to train tens of millions, and we have all the readiness to train tens of millions, hundreds of millions. And fifth, we’ve accelerated research and development."

Today, 130 scientists, funders and manufacturers from around the world have signed a statement committing to work with WHO to speed the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.

In the coming days, WHO will be releasing an updated strategy, and a revised Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, with an estimate of the financial needs for the next phase of the response.

''For the past 100 days, our unwavering commitment has been to serve all people of the world with equity, objectivity and neutrality. And that will continue to be our sole focus in the days, weeks and months ahead,'' the WHO chief concluded.

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