WHO on Corona
On 20th April 2020 WHO held a historically important press conference at its headquarters in Geneva. The main theme of this was Covid-19 with only a passing reference to some other issues like Ebola cases and violence against health care workers.
Of the two events which emphasized the importance of this conference, the first one preceded it by two days. It was an eight-hour-long musical evening with participants of international fame. The show was named as " One World Together at Home" and was a fundraising event. A whopping US $ 127million was the total yield from it, including the US $ 55million for WHO's Solidarity Response Fund. This fund within the next two days had collected a total of US $ 194 million from more than 270,000 individuals, corporations and foundations.
This date 20th April 2020 was also the date on which WHO for the first time held a press conference with instant facilities for translation, interpretation, and questioning, available to both Zoom and live attendees in all its six official languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic & Chinese.
The main speaker of this session was no less a personality than the secretary-general of WHO himself Dr. Tedros Adhanora Ghebreyesus who as a part of his declaration of the importance of the upcoming event, a day before the said meeting, addressed the health ministers of the G-20countries. The effort of these participating G20 nations was to accept the WHO's coordinating role and seek technological guidance from the world body. The G77 and the NAM member countries too had sent their vote of confidence on the occasion.
Yet another pointer to the importance of this session was the cancellation of the regular monthly press conference in the previous month of March'2020, evidently because everyone must have been busy preparing for this mega event. In May-June'20, though the meets did take place, they were lackluster events compared to the April'20 affair as the point by then had already been made.
My purpose in pointing to the emphasis factor of this conference is to remind all working in the field, that as world leaders in health management WHO meant to warn the whole world in no uncertain terms, of the fast-spreading disasters of the pandemic and to provide direction and stimulus to decision-makers in every corner of the globe to buckle themselves up to face the hazards expected from the disease. It (WHO) seemed to be telling us that a sluggish approach of acting within the available means would fetch tragic results, the time had arrived for upgrading the health delivery systems; starting from a lifestyle change of every single individual of the society to analyzing the genome sequence of the virus and finding effective vaccines and treatment for the infection.
- A declaration was made in this 20th April conference of WHO's a commitment to work for scientific solutions to the Covid-19 problem facing the world and to attain solidarity for saving human lives.
- Another subject discussed at that time was related to the factors countries must consider for unlocking their lockdown restrictions and an emphasis laid on the reminder that easing restrictions is not the end of an epidemic in any country (in fact as we are seeing here in our own country the two Es-Easing of restrictions & End of pandemic have no relationship whatsoever between themselves).
The path chalked out by WHO for fighting the pandemic and reducing its spread & deadly effects was one that required sustained efforts on the part of individuals, communities and governments to continue suppressing this mortally pathogenic virus. An epidemiological approach, it was said, would ensure mass scale detection-covering maximum populations, adequate testing for the disease, isolation of affected individuals, care for every positive case and sincere tracing of contacts.
Validation of tests to detect Covid-19 antibodies which guide us to understand the extent of infection in the population was another development which was welcomed.
Though as per the analysis of data available till then, the suggestion was emerging that only small percentage of populations may have been infected even in heavily affected areas (not more than 2-3%), the organization (WHO) declared its commitment for providing technical, scientific and financial support to projects on seroepidemiological surveys across the world.
Differences in the interpretation of the antibody detection test and those that detect the virus (RT-PCR as an example) was also explained in this conference. It was said that while the antibody test only tells us about who is infected, it is the tests which detect the virus in the individual's throat swab sample which provide information on the case being an active one or not (being an active case means a patient who can pass on the infection to others) and also therefore help in the exact diagnosis, justification and therefore effectiveness of isolation and finding correct treatment. Here it was added that one of WHO's priorities was to work with partners to increase the production and equitable distribution of diagnostics to the countries that need them most. Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, it was told, were working with WHO to identify and validate five tests that can be manufactured in large quantities. UNICEF, Unit Aid & Global Fund were helping WHO in making these tests available to the needful countries.
The World Food Program and the UN supply chain had come forward to help WHO ship consignments of millions of kits for protection of health care workers and deliver masks, goggles, testing kits, face shields and other lifesaving medical equipment to 120 priority countries (of course most of these were in African region).
To read the first article please visit: https://opinionexpress.in/making-sense-of-world-corona-figures
(In chapter 2b of this series, which would follow soon after, we will take up the most commonly asked questions and other related issues that concern WHO directly.)