• The World Health Organization held a media briefing to update the public on the COVID-19 outbreak. Streamed live at 17.00 CET on Monday, 16 March.
  • WHO officials acknowledged that reported cases might not reflect full numbers, including mild cases.
  • A successful comprehensive strategy cannot depend on social distancing alone but will require testing and isolating cases.

As worldwide cases of COVID-19 rise above 182,000 and one country after another forces schools and businesses into lockdown, here's what you need to know about the spread of the coronavirus, from officials at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Social distancing is important - but it’s not enough
While many countries are now practicing social distancing, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, explained that a successful comprehensive approach that includes testing and isolating cases will be essential to fighting the disease. "You must break the chains of transmission," said the Director-General. “You cannot fight a fire blindfolded.”

“You must test and isolate. You cannot fight a fire blindfolded.”

—Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General

We’re likely missing cases
Reported numbers might not reflect all cases, WHO officials acknowledged. That’s normal in a pandemic, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead, especially since a crisis initially focuses on those who seek care and not more mild cases. Still, Kerkhove said health professionals and governments must aggressively root out where the virus lives. She stressed the need for countries to increase the number of tests, boost lab capacity, train more lab workers and maintain the resolve to find and test symptomatic contacts.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Shortages of tests and personal protection equipment
The WHO noted that tests and personal protection equipment continue to be in short supply in some countries. The WHO said that 1.5 million tests have shipped to 120 countries and the WHO is working on getting more tests to those in need.

Additionally, the WHO said it has been in close contact with CEOs and top government officials to ensure more equipment can be made available and remove the pressures on makers of all types of equipment.

Advice for caregivers
The Director-General acknowledged that many cases cannot be treated in health facilities and are being cared for in their homes. In these cases, it’s important for caregivers to follow WHO guidelines so that the infection does not spread to healthy people in the home. In these situations, caregivers should:

-Use a mask when in the same room

-Sleep in a separate bedroom

-Use a different bathroom than the person infected with coronavirus

-Be someone who is healthy without any underlying conditions

-Wash their hands after coming into contact with the patient

How to help: COVID-19 Fund

The Director-General said the Covid19 fund launched last Friday has already received donations from 110,000 people raisitng $19 million so far. The WHO stressed that this fund can help buy diagnostic tests and support research.

Show your solidarity

The Director-General said he was heartened by images of people applauding healthcare workers or reports of people grocery shopping for people who could not leave their homes. Such measures are ways individuals can help show their support and solidarity. “This will be a test of our resolve,” said Ghebreyesus. “This will be a test of our trust in science. And a test in our solidarity.

“Crises bring out the best and worst in humanity,” he added. “Though we must be apart physically, we can come together in ways we never have before.”

For more information, visit the WHO coronavirus page.