We cannot just wait for COVID-19 vaccine, must save lives with tools we have: WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Geneva: The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday (October 12, 2020) said that we cannot just wait for the COVID-19 vaccine but must save lives with tools we have at hand. 

Ghebreyesus remarks came at the Regional Committee of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean.

“Through the access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and the COVAX Facility, we’re working to ensure that if and when a vaccine is proven to be safe and effective, it will be accessible equitably for all countries in your region. But we cannot just wait for a vaccine. We must save lives with the tools we have at hand,” said the WHO Chief.

“It’s hard to imagine that when this Committee met a year ago, COVID-19 was still completely unknown to us. How the world has changed,” expressed  Ghebreyesus. 

He said that the coronavirus pandemic has upended the world’s health systems, societies, and economies and added, “Cases are increasing in the region, and all countries must remain vigilant. The virus is still circulating and most people remain susceptible.”

Ghebreyesus said that the ‘hard-won gains can be easily lost’.

He stated that as the cases increase across the region, the WHO is urging countries to focus on four essential priorities:

1. Prevent amplifying events. All around the world, explosive outbreaks have been linked to gatherings at stadiums, nightclubs, places of worship and other crowds.

2. Protect the vulnerable, to save lives and reduce the burden on the health system of severely- and critically-ill patients.

3. Educate and empower communities to protect themselves and others. Physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and masks can all help to curb transmission and save lives – not in isolation, but together.

4. Persist with the public health basics: find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine their contacts.

“Countries that do these four things, and do them well, can prevent or contain widespread transmission and avoid having to reimpose so-called lockdowns,” opined WHO Director-General.

While briefing the media, the WHO Chief stated that each of the last four days has been the highest number of cases reported so far and that many cities and countries are also reporting an increase in hospitalizations and intensive care bed occupancy.

He said that almost 70% of all cases reported globally last week were from 10 countries, and almost half of all cases were from just three countries.

Ghebreyesus noted that digital technologies are helping to make these tried-and-tested public health tools even more effective, such as mobile applications to support contact tracing efforts.

“The Aarogya Setu app from India has been downloaded by 150 million users, and has helped city public health departments to identify areas where clusters could be anticipated and expand testing in a targeted way,” said Ghebreyesus.

He added, “As well as alerting users that they may have been exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, the app allows users to book a test and receive results, keep track of the places they’ve visited and received the latest advice on local restrictions.”

According to WHO’s COVID-19 data at 12:20 AM on October 13, there have been 3,74,23,660 confirmed cases across the world with over 10,74,817 deaths.

We cannot just wait for COVID-19 vaccine, must save lives with tools we have: WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus