The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for worldwide solidarity in a bid to stop the spread of novel coronavirus as the number of cases and deaths across the globe not outnumber those occurring in China.
“We have seen a rapid escalation in social distancing measures, like closing schools & canceling sporting events & other gatherings. But we haven’t seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the COVID-19 response,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press briefing on Monday.
Tedros, who said the agency’s message remains “test, test, test,” called for isolation of positive patients, and for people who they had contact with for up to two days before showing symptoms to be tested as well.
He also called for confirmed cases, even those who are experiencing mild symptoms, to be isolated in health facilities to prevent transmission. In countries whose health systems are already overwhelmed by the virus, Tedros said patients with mild cases could be isolated and cared for at home.
“People infected with COVID-19 can still infect others after they stop feeling sick, so these measures should continue for at least two weeks after symptoms disappear,” he said. “Visitors should not be allowed until the end of this period.”
Tedros said the agency was also issuing new guidance for children, older people and pregnant women, and warned that even countries with advanced health systems are struggling to cope with this outbreak.
“As the coronavirus moves to low-income countries, we’re deeply concerned about the impact it could have among populations with high HIV prevalence or malnourished children,” he said. “We’re calling on every country and individual to do everything they can to stop transmission”
This includes, Tedros said, refraining from hoarding essential items like medicines and other products which “can exacerbate suffering.”
“This is the defining global health crisis of our time,” he said. “The days, weeks and months ahead will be a test of our resolve, a test of our trust in science and a test of our solidarity. Crises like COVID-19 tend to bring out the best and worst in humanity.”
He said the “amazing spirit of human solidarity must become even more infectious than the coronavirus itself.”
“Although we may have to be physically apart from each other for a while, we can come together in ways we never have before,” Tedros said. “We’re all in this together. And we can only succeed together.”