Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Weekly Epidemiological Update 4

Key weekly updates

·       WHO Director-General Dr Tedros, in his regular media briefing on Friday, spelled out four essential things that all countries, communities and individuals must focus on to rein in COVID-19:

o   Prevent amplifying events. COVID-19 spreads very efficiently among clusters of people;

o   Reduce deaths by protecting vulnerable groups, including older people, those with underlying conditions and essential workers;

o   Empower people: individuals must play their part by taking the measures we know work to protect themselves and others – stay at least one metre away from others, clean hands regularly, practise respiratory etiquette, and wear a mask as recommended; and

o   Governments must take tailored actions to find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine contacts.

·       WHO has published guidance on the use of corticosteroids in the treatment of patients with COVID-

19. Based on current evidence, two recommendations are made: a strong recommendation for systemic corticosteroid therapy for 7 to 10 days in patients with severe and critical COVID-19, and a conditional recommendation not to use corticosteroid therapy in patients with nonsevere COVID-19.

·       WHO has also published guidance for individuals who tend to the bodies of persons who have died of suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The document updates guidance issued on 24 March with the following new or modified content: clarification of body bag requirements; clarification of personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements during autopsies; updated ventilation requirements during autopsy.

·       At the first meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on Behavioural Insights and Sciences for Health, Dr Tedros said “The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world that public health agencies and experts need a better understanding of how people and societies behave and make decisions in relation to their health”. The group brings together some 21 advisors representing a variety of countries and expertise in related disciplines.

·       Many parents, educators and children themselves have concerns and anxieties about going to school during these times. WHO/Europe and the Ministry of Health, Italy, have released a joint statement on schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic, discussing some of the measures that can be considered for risk reduction in school settings. These include: protective measures, such as masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing; specific policies for at-risk children; and online learning.

·       While the race to find safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines continues, African countries are signing up to a ground-breaking initiative, which aims to secure at least 220 million doses of vaccine for the continent, once licensed and approved. All 54 countries on the continent have expressed interest in COVAX, a global initiative which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The European Commission has joined the COVAX Facility, and Dr Tedros thanked the Commission for its contribution of 400 million euros.

·       WHO has launched an appeal for at least US$76 million to support Lebanon in the wake of the blasts four weeks ago, which left more than 6,500 people injured, 300,000 people homeless, and severely damaged critical health infrastructure and medical supplies. Any individual or organization can contribute through the WHO Foundation.

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