Cape Town - As the Coronavirus wreaks havoc, gaining a foothold and beginning to impact the economy on a global scale, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is optimistic that the disease would be combated like many other outbreaks, including Ebola.
All countries must take a comprehensive blended strategy for controlling their epidemics and pushing this deadly virus back.
Countries that continue finding and testing cases and tracing their contacts not only protect their own people, they can also affect what happens in other countries and globally, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during his media briefing on Covid-19 on Monday.
“As you know, over the weekend we crossed 100,000 reported cases of Covid-19 in 100 countries. It’s certainly troubling that so many people and countries have been affected so quickly. Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,” he said.
“But it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled. The bottom line is, we are not at the mercy of this virus.”
He said the great advantage is that the decisions made by all governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals can influence the trajectory of this epidemic and that with decisive, early action, the virus can slow down and prevent infections. Among those who are infected, most will recover.
Of the thousands of reported cases in China, more than 70% have recovered and been discharged, the WHO said. In areas with community spread, testing every suspected case and tracing their contacts becomes more challenging.
Action must be taken to prevent transmission at the community level to reduce the epidemic to manageable clusters, it says.
Depending on their context, countries with community transmission could consider closing schools, cancelling mass gatherings and other measures to reduce exposure.
For all countries, the WHO said, the fundamental elements of the response are the same. includes emergency response mechanisms, risk communications and public engagement, case finding and contact tracing, and public health measures such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and social distancing, among others.
Ghebreyesus said Singapore is a good example of an all-of-government approach. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s regular videos are helping to explain the risks and reassure people.
The Republic of Korea has increased efforts to identify all cases and contacts, including drive-through temperature testing to widen the net and catch cases that might otherwise be missed.
Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia have strengthened surveillance and diagnostic capacity to find cases quickly. He further announced that almost $300 million has now been pledged to WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.
“We have shipped supplies of personal protective equipment to 57 countries, we’re preparing to ship in a further 28, and we’ve shipped lab supplies to 120 countries.
“We’re also working with our colleagues across the United Nations (UN) system to support countries to develop their preparedness and response plans, according to the eight pillars,” Ghebreyesus said.
He said that “we’re encouraged that Italy is taking aggressive measures to contain its epidemic, and we hope that those measures prove effective in the coming days”.
Numbers are rising rapidly as Nigeria and South Africa announced new cases on Monday and the first death on the African continent was recorded in Egypt.
Nine African countries including, South Africa, Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Togo, Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria and Morocco have reported more than 90 Coronavirus cases, according to WHO on Monday.
South Africa’s health minister, Zweli Mkhize, also announced on Monday afternoon that four more people, all from KwaZulu-Natal, had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the number of reported cases in the country to seven.
All of the new infections are from the same group of ten people who returned from vacation in northern Italy in early March, the minister said. The group of ten were already in isolation.