Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Weekly Epidemiological Update 5


Key weekly updates

·       The first meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) Review Committee on the functioning of the IHR during the COVID-19 pandemic was held this week. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros stated that the committee would review the functioning of the IHR during the COVID-19 response, including IHR provisions related to, but not limited to, the following six areas:

o   The convening of the Emergency Committee and its working modalities, and in particular, the binary mechanism for declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern;

o   The international coordination and collaboration for response, including the role and functioning of national IHR focal points;

o   Outbreak alert, verification and risk assessment, information sharing and communication;

o   Additional health measures in relation to international travel;

o   Implementation and reporting of IHR core capacities, including the possibility of establishing peer review processes for capacity assessments;

o   Examining progress made on the implementation of recommendations from previous IHR review committees.

·       As public health and safety measures begin to reduce COVID-19 cases to manageable levels in some countries, the epidemiological practice of contact tracing must go into full force. This becomes complicated and time-consuming very quickly, especially in the context of COVID-19, as the virus can be transmitted between people without even causing symptoms. While conventional contact tracing methods will always remain relevant, digital tools present an opportunity to optimize traditional approaches. WHO is pursuing multiple avenues at once: behind the scenes bringing together private sector, innovators and governments to scale up technology and digital inclusion; and on the ground, for example in humanitarian settings.

·       In his second regular media briefing of last week, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros highlighted that COVID-19 is like no other disease in history, in that it has seen such rapid development in research. In April, together with the European Commission and several other partners, WHO launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, to catalyze the development of and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. WHO co-hosted the first ACT Accelerator Facilitation Council meeting last week. The Council reiterated that there is a need for a significant increase in funding in order for the ACT Accelerator to be able to deliver on its goals.

·       The ability to confirm COVID-19 disease relies on the accurate detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. WHO has published interim guidance for countries who are considering the integration of rapid immunoassays into COVID-19 outbreak management programs and has also revised guidance on diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 which provides more background information on clinical diagnostic algorithms and new findings from the literature and best practices.

·       Surveys by UNICEF and WHO reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services, which threaten to undo decades of hard-won progress, particularly in the number of global deaths in children under five years old, which was at its lowest point on record in 2019.

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