Saturday, January 16, 2021

Get ready for multiple Covid-19 surges, WHO warns govts

Although countries in the Western Pacific region have done better than others, behavioural and policy lapses are leading to surges, WHO says.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned governments of countries in the Western Pacific region, which includes Malaysia, to prepare for multiple surges of Covid-19 before a vaccine is ready – estimated to be available by the end of 2021.

Dr Babatunde Olowokure, WHO regional emergency director for the Western Pacific, said although countries in the region had done better than others, behavioural and policy lapses were leading to surges.

“This is mainly due to breaches, exemptions or relaxations, such as allowing the congregation of people in settings that are high-risk,” he said at the virtual press conference of the 71st session of the Regional Committee today.

He said lockdowns would not work unless they came with “measures to suppress the virus” such as social distancing, the wearing of masks, and the practice of good hygiene.

“There must be a number of control measures which are all implemented together,” he said.

Dr Takeshi Kasai, regional director for the WHO-Western Pacific, told the press that governments would have to find a sustainable strategy when this happens as people tire of following pandemic protocols.

“As long as the virus is circulating in the world, no country is safe. And there is no sign that the virus is going away quickly,” he said.

Such steps include increasing vigilance to quickly detect, test and isolate cases, improving the public health system, and protecting the vulnerable.

He said businesses needed to find a way to operate while minimising risk, while the public needed to adopt preventative measures.

The onus, he added, was on governments to engage businesses and the public to work together and reduce transmission.

“I know it is not easy to do. But the more we actively create the new normal, I think we can bring up those economies and people’s (livelihoods),” he said.

WHO-Western Pacific has recorded the lowest number of infections and fatalities so far, with some Pacific islands recording no cases at all.

Covid-19 has infected over 633,000 and killed more than 13,000 in the region.

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