Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID - 19): WHO Update (25 September 2020)

Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID - 19): WHO Update (25 September 2020)

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As the flu season in the northern hemisphere approaches, “many countries find themselves struggling to strike the right balance between protecting public health, protecting personal liberty and protecting their economies,” warned the WHO on Friday (25 Sep).

“So-called lockdowns and the impact on global travel and trade have already taken such a heavy toll," World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a regular COVID-19 pandemic press briefing in Geneva.

Dr Tedros also said that the potential vaccine is not the only solution to the pandemic.

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket,” he said. “That's the message we have, meaning we have to invest in vaccines, but at the same time, let's be very serious in using the tools we have at hand. Many countries have suppressed the virus, controlled the pandemic with the tools at hand."

As the number of deaths due to COVID-19 approaches one million, Dr Mike Ryan Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme said "one million is a terrible number and I think we need to reflect on that before we start considering a second million. There is a lot that can be done to save lives, both in terms of disease control, existing life-saving measures, and the innovations that are coming down the pipe. The real question is, are we prepared collectively to do what it takes to avoid that number?"

Dr Ryan also said "lockdowns and national lockdowns are almost a last resort. And to think that we're back in last resort territory in September, at the beginning of the autumn, I think it's something that's a pretty sobering thought. Have we exhausted all the tools? Have we really exhausted all of the tools? So we're back to lockdowns as a solution? Have we really implemented testing and tracing and isolation and quarantine? Have we really maximized the value of public health and social measures? Have we really maximized people's commitment to physical distancing and hand hygiene and wearing masks and all of the other things? And are we back to lockdowns as a solution?"

Also speaking at the press conference, Dr Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor to the Director-General and Head of the WHO’s ACT-Accelerator Coordination Hub said "whether another million people die of COVID-19 is not a function of whether or not we have a vaccine. It's a function of whether or not we put the tools and approaches and knowledge that we have today to work, to save lives and prevent transmission. It's as simple as that. And if we start thinking about it as a function of the vaccine, people will unnecessarily and unacceptably die as we wait for a vaccine."

Speaking about the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases throughout Europe, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme said "what is worrying to us is an increase in hospitalizations and an increase in bed occupancy for hospitalizations and also in ICU. We're at the end of September, not even towards the end of September and we haven't even started our flu season yet. So, what we are worried about is the possibility, you know, that these trends are going in the wrong direction."

She also said "we're trying to all work through what our new normal looks like and whether we like it or not, going back to the old ways right now is not going to happen. We are working towards keeping ourselves safe, finding ways to keep transmission to a low level while we open up our societies. And there are ways that we're doing that. How can we remain social with our friends but keep physically distant? How can that place where I want to go be safer by improving ventilation through either natural ventilation or other means? How can we reduce the number of people that are there? But I think, you know, we really need to stop blaming each other on what is wrong and work together to find these solutions."

As of 25 September, the WHO has registered 2,110,656 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 980,031 deaths.