WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said his message to G20 leaders was threefold: fight to stop the virus “with every resource at our disposal,” unite to confront the pandemic together, and “ignite the industrial might and innovation of the G20 to produce and distribute the tools needed to save lives.”
Speaking at a press conference today (27 Mar) Tedros said he told G20 leaders in an address yesterday that “we are one humanity with one common enemy” and no country can fight alone He said the “chronic global shortage of personal protective equipment is now one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives.”
He said WHO had shipped almost two million individual items of protective gear to 74 countries that need it most, and was preparing to send a similar amount to a further 60 countries, but added that much more was needed.
Tedros highlighted the importance of international cooperation in research and development to face COVID-19. He said a vaccine was still at least 12 to 18 months away, but recognized that there was an urgent need for therapeutics to treat patients and save lives.
SOUNDBITE (English) Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“Today, we’re delighted to announce that today Norway and Spain, the first patients will shortly be enrolled in the Solidarity Trial, which will compare the safety and effectiveness of four different drugs or drug combinations against COVID-19. This is a historic trial.”
He said more than 45 countries were contributing to the trial, and more had expressed interest and stressed that the more countries join the trial, the faster it would yield results.
WHO Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme, Micheal Ryan, said, for most young people it is a “very mild infection,” but stressed that for “a significant minority of people between the age of 20 and 60, this is a significant infection.” He added, “If you listen to people who are interviewed on the media, the one thing I’ve seen again and again and again from people, adults who’ve got this and young adults, and they keep looking at the camera and saying, this is not flu.”
Ryan said it was important to note that the rise in numbers was in part due to “increased detection” and “better testing.” He said, “Having a larger number means I know where the virus is, better.”
Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical lead at WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme stressed that the virus could be controlled. She said, “What works is case finding, is contact tracing, is mobilizing your population and communicating with your population. It’s making sure that you have arrangements in place so that people who need to be cared for can be, so that healthcare workers are protected; so that PPE is used appropriately and that they’re saved for frontline workers and utilised by those that need it most.”
On restrictions of movement, Tedros said, “People understand, to have to limit their individual freedom, if it’s for the betterment of the society and when it’s for a short period. So, it’s a dialogue that should continue between the government and the community.”
Ryan added that through community trust and engagement individual could be “prepared to offer a little piece of individual sovereignty in order to support the community, the selflessness of the one to help them many, but that must be a temporary gift.”