By Caribbean News Global
TORONTO, Canada – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday declared coronavirus a pandemic, that does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.
“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus,” he said. “There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries climb even higher.”
Director-general Ghebreyesus noted that WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.
- A pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China was first reported to the WHO Country Office in China on December 31, 2019.
- WHO is working 24/7 to analyse data, provide advice, coordinate with partners, help countries prepare, increase supplies and manage expert networks.
- The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020.
- The international community has asked for US$675 million to help protect states with weaker health systems as part of its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.
WHO’s declaration of a pandemic coincides with new funding, protocols and regulations.
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak [today] in the 2020 budget 2020 announced £12 billion for temporary, timely and targeted measures to provide security and stability for people and businesses. Measures outlined by the Chancellor can be found in support for those affected by Covid-19.
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), UNICEF and the WHO had issued new guidance to help protect children and schools from transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
The new guidance also offers helpful tips and checklists for parents and caregivers, as well as children and students themselves. These actions include:
- Monitoring children’s health and keeping them home from school if they are ill;
- Encouraging children to ask questions and express their concerns; and
- Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow and avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously advised that if you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:
- Stock up on supplies;
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others;
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often;
- Avoid crowds as much as possible;
- Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel;
- During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.
PAHO’s situation report (March 11) (14:00 EST) states in the region of the Americas, “an additional 356 COVID-19 cases have been reported from 16 countries and four French overseas territories/regions for a total of 1,192 cases to date. In addition, the United States reported 49 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 among repatriated persons in the from Wuhan, China (3) and the Diamond Princess cruise ship (46).
“An additional five COVID-19 deaths were reported for a total of 32 deaths reported to date; in the United States of America (29), Argentina one; Canada one and Panama one. The death in Panama was a 64-year-old patient with underlying health conditions. The 29 deaths in the US were reported from the States of California (2), Florida (2), New Jersey (1) and Washington (24) – majority (19) of the deaths in Washington State was associated with a long-term care facility.”
Concerning the protocols in place to help keep the risk to Ontarians low, Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health, and Dr Merrilee Fullerton, minister of Long-Term Care said in a statement March 11:
“Ontario recently announced that the province is implementing an enhanced response structure to COVID-19 that brings together a wide range of partners to strengthen and implement provincial and regional plans. The structure involves the creation of a number of tables – or expert teams – including a new Command Table that will serve as a single point of oversight. Senior leadership from across government and the health sector are now providing clear strategic direction to guide Ontario’s ongoing response to COVID-19. Through a Collaboration Table, stakeholders from the long-term care sector have the opportunity to provide valuable advice.
Our government has also recently instructed long-term care homes to begin active screening of staff, students, volunteers, visitors, residents moving into a long-term care home and residents returning to a long-term care home. These individuals will now be proactively checked for symptoms and asked about recent travel history and contacts.
Ontario’s commitment to the safety, quality of care and quality of life of long-term care home residents is safeguarded by regulations and requirements in the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007. Long-term care homes enforce rigorous provincial standards for all public health concerns, including outbreak management systems for detecting, managing, and controlling infectious disease outbreaks.”
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said it is prepared to help countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean cope with challenges posed by the pandemic, and can rapidly assign $2 billion for efforts to contain the pandemic and strengthen health services.
“The IDB has up to $2 billion in resources that can be programmed to countries requesting support for disease monitoring, testing, and public health services. The Bank can also work with countries that have undisbursed loan balances to redirect resources to pandemic-response efforts. In addition, the IDB is studying the economic consequences of the pandemic in its member countries and is considering alternatives for providing resources to help them weather the mid- and long-term effects.”
WHO director-general on Wednesday emphasized that: “We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear. We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” Ghebreyesus said.