Geneva: WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it’s incredible to reflect on how dramatically the world has changed, in such a short period of time.
“I’d like to give an overview of what WHO has done in the past 100 days, and what we will be doing in the near future to alleviate suffering and save lives,” the director-general said in a press briefing on Wednesday.
It’s been 100 days since WHO was notified of the first cases of “pneumonia with unknown cause” in China,
“On the 1st of January, just hours after we were notified of the first cases, WHO activated its Incident Management Support Team, to coordinate our response at headquarters, regional and country level,”
Dr Tedros said.
On the January 5, WHO officially notified all Member States of this new outbreak, and published a disease outbreak news on the website.
“On the 10th of January, a comprehensive package of guidance was issued to countries on how to detect, test and manage potential cases, and protect health workers. On the same day, we convened our strategic and technical advisory group on infectious hazards to review the situation.
“We have been engaging with journalists since the beginning, responding to media enquiries around the clock. We convened the emergency committee on the 22nd of January, and again a week later, after the first cases of human-to-human transmission were reported outside China, and declared a public health emergency of international concern – our highest level of alarm. At the time there were 98 cases outside China, and no deaths,” he said.
Dr Tedros said in February an international team of experts from Canada, China, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Singapore and the United States of America visited affected provinces in China to learn more about the virus, the outbreak and the response, and to glean lessons for the rest of the world.
In early February the United Nations Crisis Management Team was activated, to coordinate the entire machinery the UN to support countries as effectively as possible.
“Since then, we have been working day and night in five key areas. First, we’ve worked to support countries in building their capacity to prepare and respond. Through WHO’s network of 6 regional offices and 150 country offices, we’ve worked closely with governments around the world to prepare their health systems for COVID-19, and to respond when cases arrive,” Dr Tedros said.
“We issued a Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, which identified the major actions countries need to take, and the resources needed to carry them out,” he said.
Dr Tedros said Governments and partners rose to the challenge. More than $800 million has been pledged or received for the response. That includes more than US$140 million from more than 229,000 individuals and organizations raised through the Solidarity Response Fund, exceeding all our expectations, and showing true global solidarity.
“I’d like to thank all donors for their support, including Apple for its contribution of US$10 million,” he said.
To ensure this money is used where it’s needed most, we’ve set up an online portal, to help partners match needs with funds. “Second, we’ve worked with numerous partners to provide accurate information and fight the pandemic. We’ve published 50 pieces of technical guidance for the public, health workers and countries, providing evidence-based advice on every element of the response,” he said.
Numerous media and tech companies including Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Messenger, Pinterest, SnapChat, Tencent, TikTok, Twitter, Viber, WhatsApp, YouTube have come forward to counter myths and misinformation with reliable, evidence-based advice.
The WhatsApp chatbot now has more than 12 million followers and is available in 7 languages, including Hindi and Portuguese, which are launching today. The Viber chatbot has more than 2 million followers, in three languages and four more to launch next week, reaching out to the citizens of the world, the person in the
street, informing them with the latest information we have.
To better understand the transmission, epidemiology and clinical features of the virus, WHO have developed research protocols that are being used in more than 40 countries, in a coordinated way.
“We know that COVID-19 means billions of believers are not able to celebrate in the way they usually would. But we wish everyone a safe and joyful Easter, Passover and Ramadan,” Dr Tedros added.