Pandemic can be controlled: WHO

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on March 12, 2020

But agency ‘deeply concerned’ about lack of political commitment in some nations

It was just a matter of time before the World Health Organisation (WHO) defined Covid-19 a pandemic.

And the multilateral agency did just that, with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus adding it is a “controllable” one.

“The assessment was made based on the speed and scale of transmission,” Tedros told foreign mission representatives on Thursday. Almost 1,25,000 cases have been reported from 118 countries and territories. In the last two weeks, the number of cases reported outside China had increased almost thirteen-fold, and the number of affected countries had almost tripled, he said. But Tedros had a stern word of caution on what he had described the previous day as “alarming levels of inaction”.



“Despite our frequent warnings, we are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it,” he said. A pandemic does not mean that countries should give up or should shift from containment to mitigation strategies, he said, adding that it was both wrong and dangerous. “On the contrary, we have to double down,” he added.

Commenting that health experts have been trying to drive home to governments, Tedros said, “Countries that decide to give up on fundamental public health measures may end up with a larger problem, and a heavier burden on the health system that requires more severe measures to control.”

Public health system

Calling on countries to strike a balance between protecting health, preventing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights, he urged them to take a comprehensive approach tailored to their circumstances and centred on containment.

“There are still 77 countries and territories with no reported cases, and 55 countries and territories that have reported 10 cases or less,” he said, adding that it was an opportunity to keep people and hospital facilities prepared.

In an earlier briefing, Tedros had pointed out that more than 90 per cent of cases were in just four countries, and two of those - China and the Republic of Korea -- were showing “significantly declining epidemics”.

The WHO chief warned, “This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector – so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight.” He said governments across the world that they would need to pull in all resources and hands on board to control the spread.

Published on March 12, 2020

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