Coronavirus update: WHO chief calls for private sector to step up, and, should you take that flight?

6 March 2020

In his daily briefing to the press on Friday, World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that supplies of medicine are at risk of disruption due to the epidemic, given that China - the worst hit nation so far - is a major producer of pharmaceutical ingredients.

So far, no imminent specific shortages have been identified, and manufacturing has resumed in most parts of China, but the private sector needs to be involved, to ensure that countries can access life-saving products, said Tedros.

“You’ve heard me talk about the market failure for personal protective equipment. We look forward to businesses stepping up to play their part. We need you”.

The WHO chief announced that the agency is working with the World Economic Forum to engage companies around the world. Earlier this week, he spoke to more than 200 CEOs, to discuss ways that they can protect their staff and customers, ensure business continuity, and contribute to the response.

Although some sources are reporting that there are now more than 100,000 global cases, Tedros announced a global total of 98,023 during his Friday briefing.

During the latest 24-hour reporting period, the WHO has noted 2,736 new cases of COVID-19, present in a total of 47 countries and territories.

Italy needs to focus on containment

Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are placed at the entrance of WHO China Office. Staff are reminded to clean their hands correctly and adequately before entering., by WHO China

On their return from a 12-day mission to Italy, a WHO Rapid Response Team has concluded that the country should maintain a strong focus on containment measures, nationwide.

The mission team, made of up UN health agency experts and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, was sent to Italy to strengthen understanding about the evolution of the disease and support the national response.

As well as containment, the team also recommended making the identification and testing of suspect cases a priority, as well as the isolation of patients, and ensuring that hospitals are sufficiently prepared.

The WHO regional team is planning to establish a field emergency team in its Venice office, and send a senior advisor to work with the Italian authorities in Rome.

UN aviation body calls for greater international cooperation

With global travel slowing in response to the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, the UN civil aviation body (ICAO) and WHO, called on Friday, for greater international cooperation to contain the virus and protect the health of travellers.

In the joint statement, ICAO noted that it is working closely with governments and industry partners to provide guidance to aviation authorities, airlines, and airports on appropriate measures aimed at reducing the risk of transmission.

As well as reaffirming the importance of international collaboration, ICAO and WHO underlined the importance of cooperation at a national level, between aviation, health, and other relevant authorities.

Should I take a flight?

People wear face masks at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan., by UN News/Li Zhang

In response to fears surrounding the spread of COVID-19, ICAO has published a list of questions and answers, designed to ensure appropriate planning and action at all levels, from Member States to aircraft operators and the general public.

Recommendations for passengers include maintaining good standard hygiene practices, such as covering the mouth when sneezing, and regular hand-washing; and consulting with medical professionals before flying, especially when the traveller has recently visited a badly-affected area, or been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 14 days.

As for the risk of taking a flight, ICAO describes the likelihood of contracting the virus while flying as extremely low, given that aircraft cabins have highly effective air filter systems that remove airborne virus particles, and that aircraft are disinfected between flights, if needed, in accordance with ICAO standards.

The full list of ICAO’s COVID-19 question and answers can be found here.

 

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