Health and Healthcare Systems

Latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) briefing from the World Health Organization - key takeaways

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference after a meeting of the Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse - RC2JQE9J8FSP

Breaking news from Friday's livestreamed coronavirus update from WHO, Geneva. Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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COVID-19

  • World Health Organisation holds daily media briefing to update public on the outbreak. This one streamed live at 4.30 CET on Friday 6 March.
  • Global number of infections verging on 100,000 confirmed cases and 3380 deaths. WHO risk assessment at "very high" globally.
  • WHO working with World Economic Forum to to engage companies around the world to protect staff and ensure economic stability.
  • Slowing spread of epidemic is key, buying time for preparedness and research.
  • This could be the start of an era of virtual meetings and teleworking.
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WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus opened this latest briefing with an acknowledgment of International Women's Day on Sunday. "This is a moment to remember that around the world, many women cannot access essential health services and continue to suffer disproportionately from preventable and treatable diseases," he said.

With regard to latest developments, Dr Tedros announced the publication of a WHO roadmap for research and development, one that would distill priorities into 9 key areas. WHO has also developed a list of over 20 essential medical devices that countries need to manage #COVID19 patients, including ventilators and oxygen supply systems.

Access to medical oxygen could be the difference between life and death for some patients, Dr Tedros said, but there is already a shortage of medical supplies in many countries and this could be exacerbated by the outbreak.

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Slowing down the epidemic is key to saving lives. "It buys time for preparedness and for research and development. Every day we can slow down the epidemic is another day hospitals can prepare themselves for cases."

Respiratory etiquette is crucial in slowing the spread, said WHO Technical Lead Dr Maria Van Kerkhove. Sneezing, coughing into elbow or disposable tissues, washing hands for a minimum of 20 seconds and social distancing where possible. More information can be found on the How to protect yourself section of the WHO website.

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"So far WHO has received applications for review and approval of 40 diagnostic tests, 20 vaccines are in development and many clinical trials of therapeutics are underway," Dr Tedros told journalists in a Q&A session following his announcements.

How can doctors know who should be tested? "It depends on where a person is, where they've travelled and what symptoms they have," said Dr Michael Ryan, WHO Executive Director. "Clinicians who suspect infection can request a test. If every single person with a sniffle is tested then we will run out of the capacity to test."

The World Bank is among many organisations moving large conferences online. Meanwhile, companies the world over are encouraging teleworking.

The WHO is working with the World Economic Forum to engage companies in coming up with workable solutions. Dr Tedros said: "Earlier this week I spoke to more than 200 CEOs about how they can protect their staff and customers, ensure business continuity and contribute to the response."

For global conferences "we advise a risk management approach to all these gatherings", added Dr Ryan. "We're entering a new era on this planet in terms of our movement, and it's wonderful to see we have alternatives to having to meet face to face all the time. Obviously we'd rather not have Covid-19 but if there's a benefit to the planet that's great.

"Life has to go on, but we also need to innovate."

Have you read?

The next livestreamed press briefing will be on Monday 9 March.

For more information, visit the WHO coronavirus page.

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