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Director-General of the World Health Organization Media Briefing on COVID19

 

Speech by the Director-General of the World Health Organization at the media briefing on the COVID-19 outbreak in October 2020

Dr Tan Desai, Director-General of the World Health Organization


The number of reports of COVID-19 cases is increasing around the world, especially in Europe and the Americas. ‎

Recently, there have been some discussions about the concept of so-called "herd immunity" by letting the virus spread. ‎

In the history of public health, herd immunity has never been used as a strategy to respond to a general infectious disease outbreak, let alone respond to a global pandemic. ‎

The WHO hopes that countries will take targeted intervention measures where and when they are needed based on local conditions. We fully understand that many people, communities, and governments are frustrated as this pandemic continues to spread and cases are rising again. ‎

There is no shortcut, and there is no panacea. The answer is to take an integrated approach, using every tool in the toolbox. ‎

Good morning, good noon, good evening, everyone. ‎

 

The number of reported cases of COVID-19 is increasing around the world, especially in Europe and the Americas. 

 

The report for each of the past four days is refreshing the record for the highest number of cases. ‎

 

Many cities and countries have reported increasing hospitalization rates and intensive care bed occupancy rates. ‎

 

At the same time, people must remember that this pandemic has shown an uneven side. ‎

 

As countries respond differently, they will be affected differently. ‎

 

Almost 70% of the cases reported globally last week were from 10 countries, and almost half of the cases were from three countries. ‎

 

The number of cases in some countries is increasing, but many countries have taken effective measures to successfully prevent or control widespread transmission. ‎

 

These measures are still our best defense against COVID-19. ‎

 

Recently, there have been some discussions about the concept of so-called "herd immunity" by letting the virus spread. ‎

 

Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, which means that if the vaccination threshold is reached, the population can be protected from a certain virus infection. ‎

 

For example, herd immunity against measles requires approximately 95% of the population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected because measles will no longer be spread among vaccinated people. ‎

 

For polio, the threshold is about 80%. ‎

 

In other words, herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from viral infections, not by exposing people to viruses. ‎

 

In the history of public health, herd immunity has never been used as a strategy to respond to a general infectious disease outbreak, let alone respond to a global pandemic. This is a problem both in science and ethics. ‎

 

First of all, we don't know much about people's immunity to COVID-19

 

Most people infected with this virus develop an immune response in the first few weeks, but we don’t know how strong or long this immune response is, or how different people’s immune responses are. We have some clues, but we don't understand the whole picture. ‎

 

There have been cases where people who have been infected with COVID-19 have been infected again. ‎

 

Second, the vast majority of people in most countries are still susceptible to this virus. Seroprevalence surveys show that in most countries, less than 10% of the population is infected with the virus. ‎

 

Allowing the virus to spread means allowing unnecessary infection, suffering and death. ‎

 

The elderly and people with underlying diseases are most likely to suffer serious illness and death, but they are not the only ones at risk. There are deaths of all age groups. ‎

 

Third, we are just beginning to understand the long-term impact on the health of COVID-19 patients. I have met many patients with the sequelae of what is now known as the coronavirus disease. I want to understand their pain and needs so that we can advance our research and rehabilitation services. ‎

 

It is extremely immoral to allow a dangerous virus that we do not fully understand to spread freely. This is not an option. ‎

 

But we have many options. The country has a lot to do. In fact, many countries are already taking measures to control the spread of the virus and save lives. ‎

 

It is not a choice between the free spread of the virus and shutting down our society. ‎

 

The virus is mainly spread between close contacts. We can take targeted measures to control the epidemic. ‎

 

Events that make the epidemic worse rapidly should be prevented. ‎

 

The vulnerable population should be protected. ‎

 

Community capacity should be enhanced, publicity and education should be carried out, and communication with the community should be carried out. ‎

 

We should insist on using the tools we have been advocating since the first day, that is, finding, isolating, testing, and treating cases, and tracking and isolating people who have been in contact with these infected people. ‎

 

This is an effective method that some countries are doing every day. ‎

 

The use of digital technology, the use of mobile applications that can assist in contact tracing, etc., can help enhance the effectiveness of these proven public health tools. ‎

 

The Corona-Warn app in Germany has delivered 1.2 million test results directly from the laboratory to users within 100 days of its launch. ‎

 

The Aarogya Setu app in India has 150 million users. Using this application, the urban public health department has identified areas where clusters of cases may occur, and has expanded its testing activities in a targeted manner. ‎

 

In Denmark, more than 2,700 people were tested for COVID-19 after being notified by the mobile app. ‎

 

The UK has launched a new version of the National Health System COVID-19 application, which was downloaded more than 10 million times in the first week. ‎

 

In addition to reminding users that they may have been exposed to positive cases of COVID-19, the app also allows users to book tests and receive test results, record places visited and receive the latest advice on local restrictions. ‎

Image of Director-General of the World Health Organization Media Briefing on COVID19

 

WHO is working with the European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help countries evaluate the effectiveness of their own digital contact tracing applications. ‎

 

This is just one example of innovative measures taken by countries to control COVID-19

 

We have many tools. WHO recommends the following measures: find, isolate, test, medical care and care for patients, trace contacts, take quarantine measures, maintain physical distance, pay attention to hand hygiene, wear masks, pay attention to breathing etiquette, ventilation, avoid crowds, etc. ‎

 

We realize that at some point, some countries have no choice but to issue stay orders and take other measures to buy time. ‎

 

Many countries use this time to develop plans, train health workers, implement supplies, improve testing capabilities, reduce testing time, and improve patient care. ‎

 

The WHO hopes that countries will take targeted intervention measures where and when they are needed based on local conditions. ‎

 

We fully understand that many people, communities, and governments are frustrated as this pandemic continues to spread and cases are rising again. ‎

 

But there is no shortcut, and there is no panacea. ‎

 

The answer is to take a comprehensive approach, using every tool in the toolbox mentioned above. ‎

 

This is not just talking on paper. Some countries have successfully adopted comprehensive methods to contain the epidemic. ‎

 

I want to say to countries that are considering various options: 

You can do it too. ‎

 

thank you all. ‎

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