WHO calls for stronger ‘whole of society approach’ in South-East Asia to combat Covid-19

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on April 03, 2020

Amidst the rapid spread of coronavirus and continuing challenges, the World Health Organization (WHO) today emphasized a stronger whole of society and the whole of government effort in the South-East Asia region. This is to be done to prevent a long-haul with the pandemic and avert further loss of precious human and other resources, as per the WHO official release.

Addressing the issue, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia stated in the official release: “A more comprehensive approach is needed with communities at the centre of our response. Most importantly, communities need to be engaged and empowered to make appropriate decisions and measures. The onus must be on each one. At this stage, everyone needs to contribute to minimizing health as well as the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.”

WHO mentioned that in recent days and weeks, countries in the region have taken difficult decisions including implementation of unprecedented physical distancing measures to arrest the virus spread.

It said that nearly 1.5 billion people - in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand together - are currently experiencing lockdowns. Supported by communities, the world will start to see the impact of these measures in the coming weeks. Simultaneously, this is also an opportunity for countries to enhance the capacities of their health systems.

“Every case, cluster and evidence of community transmission would need to be aggressively responded to. Basic public health measures, such as active case detection, isolation, testing, treatment, and contact tracing are among our most powerful tools. Strong surveillance is needed to assess and guide evidence-based measures,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.

The Regional Director held a virtual meeting with health ministers of the region to review the challenges. Most countries highlighted the need for essential medical equipment, testing kits, personal protective equipment for health workers and enhancing health systems capacities, especially to respond to community transmission.

The Regional Director said WHO will continue to work with the Pandemic Supply Chain Network to ensure all at-risk and critically affected countries are supported.

“These shortages are a global problem and one that will have a significant impact on the response. If we cannot protect health workers and are unable to test adequately, we will be fighting with one arm tied,” she said.

The Regional Director commended countries in the region for participating in the WHO Solidarity Trial. India, Indonesia, and Thailand have signed up for the multi-country trial, which will compare the safety and effectiveness of four different drugs or drug combinations against COVID-19.

“It is a historic undertaking that will dramatically reduce the time needed to generate robust evidence about what drugs are effective in treating COVID-19. The more countries that join, the faster we will have the results. I urge all countries to sign up,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said,

She added that WHO would soon launch a second protocol for the Solidarity Trial that will help establish the incidence and prevalence of infection and the future behaviour of the virus.

Published on April 03, 2020

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