With, the World Health Organization on Wednesday asked South-East Asia countries to strengthen preparedness for all possible scenarios and ensure early containment measures. WHO’s warning has come in the wake of India, Indonesia and Thailand confirming new cases of COVID-19.
- Top priority of countries should be to be ready to roll out speedy response to the first case, first cluster, and first evidences of community transmission.
- Early containment measures can help countries stop transmission.
- Five of the 11 countries in the region have confirmed novel coronavirus cases — Thailand 43, India 28, Indonesia two and Sri Lanka and Nepal one each.
Risk of the New Coronavirus
- The risk of the new coronavirus is very high across the world and in WHO South-East Asia Region.
- According to the WHO, more cases can be expected.
- There are three priorities for country readiness – protecting health workers, engaging with communities and empowering them with timely and accurate information to enable them take protective measures, especially those at highest risk.
- Patients have a range of symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- Based on current data, globally 81 per cent of cases seem to have mild disease, about 14 per cent appear to progress to severe disease, and some five per cent are critical.
How to Protect Yourself
- People can protect themselves and prevent spread of the virus by practising hand hygiene, covering their cough and sneeze, maintaining distance from others if they are sick and from those who are sick, she said.
- WHO is assisting countries in preparedness and response planning, in coordination with other partner organisations as per updated global guidelines.
- All member countries have rolled out a series of measures to prevent the disease and protect their nationals.
- Nine of the 11 countries now have capacities to test for novel coronavirus.
WHO is supporting countries with supplies for laboratories. For countries unable to test, WHO is assisting in shipping of their samples to global referral laboratories, three of them in the region — two in Thailand and one in India.
Nearly 3,00,000 pieces of personal protective equipment comprising caps, goggles, surgical masks, gloves, gowns, etc., have been supplied to member countries, and nearly 2,00,000 more pieces are being procured.
WHO’s Highest Level Alarm
On February 28, WHO raised the risk assessment for the COVID-19 outbreak internationally from “high” to “very high” nearly a month after the novel coronavirus was declared a public health emergency of international concern – WHO’s highest level alarm.