COVID-19: Invest in basics of public health to save lives and livelihoods, WHO urges world leaders

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THE World Health Organization (WHO), says world leaders and governments should  invest massively in their various health sectors to save lives and livelihoods as COVID-19 pandemic ravages the world.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the WHO Director General stated this during a press conference on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.

Adhanom noted that many nations like Rwanda, New Zealand, and many islands states across the Caribbean and the Pacific were able to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic early because their leaders took proactive and pragmatic steps towards arresting the virus when it first surfaced in these nations.

He attributed Rwanda’s resistance to the outbreak of the virus  to “combination of strong leadership, universal health coverage, well-supported health workers and clear public health communications.”

“I want to be clear, there are green shoots of hope and no matter where a country, a region, a city or a town is – it’s never too late to turn the outbreak around,” he said.

“There are two essential elements to addressing the pandemic effectively: Leaders must step up to take action and citizens need to embrace new measures.”

The WHO DG said New Zealand is seen as a global exemplar, noting that its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had over the weekend celebrated 100 days with no community transmission, while stressing the need to remain cautious.

Speaking on progress made by Rwanda, he said the country’s progress was due to a similar combination of strong leadership, universal health coverage, well-supported health workers and clear public health communications.

“All testing and treatment for COVID-19 is free in Rwanda, so there are no financial barriers to people getting tested. And when people test positive for the virus, they’re isolated and health workers then visit every potential contact and test them also.”

He emphasised that getting the basics right provides a clear picture of where the virus is and the necessary targeted actions to suppress transmission and save lives.


“This means that where there are cases, the government can quickly implement targeted measures and focus control efforts where they are needed most.”

He however, remarked that other countries like France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Italy, and the UK had major outbreaks of the virus but when they took action, they were able to suppress it.

According to Adhanom, many countries globally are now using all the tools at their disposal to tackle any new spikes.

“Over the last few days, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put areas of northern England under stay at home notifications, as clusters of cases were identified,” he said.

“In France, President Macron introduced compulsory masking in busy outdoor spaces of Paris in response to an increase in cases.”

He stated that strong and precise measures like these, in combination with utilising every tool are key to preventing any resurgence in disease and allowing societies to be reopened safely.

And even in countries where transmission is intense, it can be brought under control by applying an all of government, all of society response.

“Chains of transmission have been broken by combination of rapid case identification, comprehensive contact tracing, adequate clinical care for patients, physical distancing, mask-wearing, regular cleaning of hands and coughing away from others.

“Whether countries or regions have successfully eliminated the virus, suppressed transmission to a low level, or are still in the midst of a major outbreak; now is the time to do it all, invest in the basics of public health and we can save both lives and livelihoods.”



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