Thursday, 09 April 2020

Geneva: The 9th of April 2020 marked 100 days since the World Health Organisation (WHO) was notified of the first cases of “pneumonia with unknown cause” in China which would later be termed COVID-19.

Since then the world has changed dramatically, said WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, on Wednesday.

Giving an overview of the global efforts to fight this pandemic, Ghebreyesus mapped out a timeline of the work WHO has done in the past 100 days, and what the organisation will be doing in the near future to alleviate suffering and save lives.

On the 1st of January 2020, just hours after being notified of the first cases, WHO activated its Incident Management Support Team to coordinate its response at headquarters, regional and country level.

On the 5th of January, WHO officially notified all member states of the new outbreak and published a disease outbreak news on its website.

“On the 10th of January, we issued a comprehensive package of guidance 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,” said Dr Tedros.

On the 22nd of January, WHO convened an emergency committee.

Again a week later, the committee reconvened after the first cases of human-to-human transmission were reported outside China.

It was at this second meeting, on Thursday 20 January 2020, that  WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern on  – its highest level of alarm. At the time there were 98 cases outside China, and no deaths.

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.

“Through WHO’s network of six 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.

“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.

“Governments and partners rose to the challenge. More than US$800 million has been pledged or received for the response,” said Ghebreyesus.

That includes more than US$140 million from more than 229 000 individuals and organisations raised through the Solidarity Response Fund, exceeding all expectations, and showing true global solidarity.

So far, WHO has shipped more than two million items of personal protective equipment to 133 countries.

“We’re preparing to ship another two million items in the coming weeks. We’ve sent more than one million diagnostic tests to 126 countries, in all regions, and we’re sourcing more. But we know much more is needed. This is not enough,” said the WHO Director General.

To ramp up the production and distribution of essential medical supplies, WHO has roped in the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Economic Forum and others in the private sector to meet the demand.

Health workers are being trained and mobilised to fight the pandemic.

More than 1.2 million people have enrolled in six courses in 43 languages on the platform.