The World Health Organization (WHO) is working on a supply pipeline for protective equipment and tests against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to actively give support to all countries, and especially those that need support the most.
In his message during Friday’s media briefing, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed such plans.
“Our aim is to build a pipeline to ensure continuity of supply, with support from our partners, governments and the private sector,” said Tedros.
The collapse of the market for personal protective equipment has created extreme difficulties in ensuring health workers have access to the equipment they need to do their jobs safely and effectively, he said.
“This is an area of key concern for us,” said Tedros.
The WHO, he said, has now identified some producers in China who have agreed to supply WHO.
The WHO is also currently finalizing the arrangements and coordinating shipments so they can refill their warehouse to ship PPE (personal protective equipment) to whoever needs it most.
“I am grateful to Jack Ma and his foundation as well as Aliko Dangote for their willingness to help provide essential supplies to countries in need,” he said.
To support their call to test every suspected case, they are also working hard to increase the global supply of diagnostic tests.
There are many companies globally that produce diagnostic kits, but WHO can only buy or recommend kits that have been evaluated independently, to ensure their quality.
The WHO official also said they have worked with FIND – the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics – to contract additional labs to evaluate new diagnostics.
In parallel, the WHO is working with companies to secure the supply and equitable distribution of these tests. “And we’re also working with companies to increase production of the other products needed to perform the tests, from the swabs used to take samples to the large machines needed to process them.”
“We’re very grateful for the way the private sector has stepped up to lend its support to the global response,” said Tedros.
Just in the past few days Tedros has spoken with the International Chamber of Commerce, with many CEOs through the World Economic Forum, and with the “B20” group of business leaders from the G20 countries.
“We understand the heavy financial toll this pandemic is taking on businesses and the global economy. We’re encouraged by the solidarity and generosity of business leaders to use their resources, experience and networks to improve the availability of supplies, communicate reliable information and protect their staff and customers,” he said.
“And we’re also encouraged that countries around the world continue to support the global response,” he said.
“We thank Kuwait for its contribution of 40 million U.S. dollars. In addition to increasing access to masks, gloves, gowns and tests, we’re also increasing access to the evidence-based technical guidance countries and health workers need to save lives,” said Tedros.
He said WHO has published guidelines for health ministers, health system administrators, and other decision-makers, to help them provide life-saving treatment as health systems are challenged, without compromising the safety of health workers.
The guidelines detail actions all countries can take to provide care for patients, regardless of how many cases they have. They also outline specific actions to prepare health systems, according to each of the “4 Cs” – no cases, sporadic cases, clusters of cases, and community transmission.
These guidelines provide a wealth of practical information on screening and triage, referral, staff, supplies, standard of care, community engagement and more.
“We encourage all countries to use these and the many other guidelines, which are all available on the WHO website. But we’re not only advising countries. We also have advice for individuals around the world, especially those who are now adjusting to a new reality,” said Tedros.
“We know that for many people, life is changing dramatically,” said Tedros.
“My family is no different – my daughter is now taking her classes online from home because her school is closed,” he said.
During this difficult time, it’s important to continue looking after one’s physical and mental health. This will not only help an individual in the long-term, but will also help one fight COVID-19 if he or she gets it.
Tedros advised everyone the following: First, eat a health and nutritious diet, which helps your immune system to function properly.
Second, limit your alcohol consumption, and avoid sugary drinks.
Third, don’t smoke. Smoking can increase your risk of developing severe disease if you become infected with COVID-19.
Fourth, exercise. WHO recommends 30 minutes of physical activity a say for adults, and one hour a day for children.
“If your local or national guidelines allow it, go outside for a walk, a run or a ride, and keep a safe distance from others. If you can’t leave the house, find an exercise video online, dance to music, do some yoga, or walk up and down the stairs,” said Tedros.
“If you’re working at home, make sure you don’t sit in the same position for long periods. Get up and take a 3-minute break every 30 minutes. We will be providing more advice on how to stay healthy at home in the coming days and weeks,” he said.
“Fifth, look after your mental health. It’s normal to feel stressed, confused and scared during a crisis. Talking to people you know and trust can help,” he said.
“Supporting other people in your community can help you as much as it does them. Check in on neighbours, family and friends. Compassion is a medicine,” said Tedros.
Tedros also advised to “Listen to music, read a book or play a game.”
“And try not to read or watch too much news if it makes you anxious. Get your information from reliable sources once or twice a day,” Tedros also advised./Stacy Ang