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CORONAVIRUS – HUMANITY UNDER SIEGE: – United Nations; World Health Organisation In Race Against Time – UN Secretary-General Says the World faces “greatest test” since 1945.

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It is important to state that Terrific Headlines in involved in this campaign as a matter of humanitarian concern and social responsibility. Whoever reads reports of events and occurrences since CORONAVIRUS put its attack in high gear and stays tuned to television stations beaming from major capitals of the world would appreciate the intensity of the ”battle’ between humanity and CORVID-19; as well as the dangers inherent in sitting on the fence, and the fatality of this rampaging major crises.

  • The World faces “greatest test” since World War II, “Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world”says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
  • Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: — United Nations
  • UN Secretary-General calls for an immediate coordinated health response to suppress transmission and end the pandemic”
  • Six (6) major United Nations agencies, OHCHR, IOM, UNHCR and WHO meet on the rights and health of refugees, migrants and stateless must be protected in COVID-19 response; another meeting featured Directors-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO)
  • Defending Africa from COVID-19; UN and Governments brace for virus spread: medical experts warn that it is just a matter of time before Africa would see an exponential increase in cases. Therefore, the United Nations is rushing to protect Africa from the COVID-19 onslaught that would lead to massive losses of lives and unprecedented social and economic damage.  – WHO
  • 5 billion students out of school – UNESCO; CORONAVIRUS is now a “public health emergency of international concernWHO; 5-25 million people may lose their jobs – International Labour Organization
  • The United Nations supports frontline COVID-19 response: The United Nations is in a race against time to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19. UN country teams are redoubling their support for frontline responders and working to help vulnerable countries strengthen their healthcare infrastructure.

THE WORLD MUST WORK TOGETHER – UN Secretary-General: Taking stock of the global toll of the CORONAVIRUS epidemic so far, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the pandemic is the “greatest test” the world has faced since the formation of the United Nations in the wake of World War II. Records indicate that about 75 million people died in World War II, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians, many of whom died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation.

COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” Guterres said in a new report released yesterday. “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries. “But this is much more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is attacking societies at their core.” Guterres said the world must work together if it is going to reduce the social and economic impact of the coronavirus on the global population.

In response to the crisis, the secretary-general said in a statement that he has established a dedicated Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support the efforts of low- and middle-income countries to stop local epidemics. “The new coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, pointing out that the potential longer-term effects on the global economy and individual countries are “dire”.

The new report, “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19“,  describes the speed and scale of the outbreak, the severity of cases, and the societal and economic disruption of the coronavirus. “COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” underscored the UN chief.  “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.”

As strong as weakest health system: Mr. Guterres called for “an immediate coordinated health response to suppress transmission and end the pandemic” that “scales up health capacity for testing, tracing, quarantine and treatment, while keeping first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact.”  He underscored that developed countries must assist those less developed, or potentially “face the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire in the global South with millions of deaths and the prospect of the disease re-emerging where it was previously suppressed”.

“Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world”, he stressed.  Focus on most vulnerable in tackling the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis, the UN chief pushed for a focus on the most vulnerable by designing policies that, among other things, support providing health and unemployment insurance and social protections while also bolstering businesses to prevent bankruptcies and job losses.

 DEBT ALLEVIATION –  A PRIORITY: Debt alleviation must also be a priority he said, noting that the UN is “fully mobilized” and is establishing a new multi-partner Trust Fund for COVID19 Response and Recovery to respond to the emergency and recover from the socio-economic shock.  “When we get past this crisis, which we will, we will face a choice”, said the UN chief, “we can go back to the world as it was before or deal decisively with those issues that make us all unnecessarily vulnerable to crises”.

Referencing the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he maintained that in recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must lead to an economy focused on building inclusive and sustainable economies that are more resilient in facing pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges. The number of deaths from the novel coronavirus is rising rapidly in the United States, with at least 830 new fatalities reported in the United States only yesterday. The Secretary-General reiterated a number of actions:

  • Global actions must include a stimulus package reaching double-digit percentage points of the world’s GDP, with explicit actions to boost the economies of developing countries.
  • Regional mobilization must examine impacts, monetary coordination, fiscal and social measures while engaging with the private financial sector to support businesses and addressing structural challenges.
  •  National solidarity needs to prioritize social cohesion and provide fiscal stimulus for the most vulnerable along with support to small- and medium-sized enterprises, decent work and education.

According to the UN Secretary-General, the International Labour Organization (ILO), five to 25 million jobs will be eradicated, and the world will lose $860 billion to $3.4 trillion in labor income. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) projected a 30 to 40 percent downward pressure on global foreign direct investment flows while the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) saw a 20–30 percent decline in international arrivals. 

Meanwhile, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) anticipated that 3.6 billion people will be offline and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) forecast that 1.5 billion students out of school. The report calls for a large-scale, coordinated, comprehensive multilateral response that amounts to at least 10 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and warns that there is no time to lose in mounting the most robust, cooperative health response the world has ever seen.

In closing, Mr. Guterres called the pandemic “a defining moment for modern society”, saying the “history will judge the efficacy of the response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors for the benefit of our human family”. “With the right actions, the COVID-19 pandemic can mark the beginning of a new type of global and societal cooperation”, concluded the Secretary-General.

INTERVENTIONS: The United Nations was founded in 1945 in the immediate aftermath of World War II by more than 50 countries with an aim of increasing cooperation between states and preventing conflict. It now has 193 member states. At least 830 new US coronavirus deaths reported in single day.  It the most reported deaths in the US in a single day during the coronavirus epidemic. To date, there has been a total of 3,834 deaths reported in the US since the pandemic began, with at least 185,499 cases across the country. Hawaii reported its first death from the disease on Tuesday, leaving Wyoming the only state yet to report a fatality.

WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 1 April 2020 — WORRY ABOUT RAPID ESCALATION OF OCCURRENCES:  Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. As we enter the fourth month since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am deeply concerned about the rapid escalation and global spread of infection. Over the past 5 weeks, we have witnessed a near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country, territory and area. The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week. In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases, and 50 thousand deaths. While relatively lower numbers of confirmed cases have been reported from Africa, and from Central and South America, we realize that COVID-19 could have serious social, economic and political consequences for these regions. It is critical that we ensure these countries are well equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat cases, and identify contacts – I am encouraged to see that this is occurring in many countries, despite limited resources.

SOCIAL WELFARE SCHEMES FOR THE VULNERABLE: Many countries are asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement, which can help to limit transmission of the virus, but can have unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable people. I have called on governments to put in place social welfare measures to ensure vulnerable people have food and other life essentials during this crisis. In India, for example, Prime Minister Modi has announced a $24 billion package, including free food rations for 800 million disadvantaged people, cash transfers to 204 million poor women and free cooking gas for 80 million households for the next 3 months.

DEBT REPRIEVE NECESSARY: Many developing countries will struggle to implement social welfare programs of this nature. For those countries, debt relief is essential to enable them to take care of their people and avoid economic collapse. This is a call from WHO, the World Bank, and the IMF – debt relief for developing countries. Three months ago, we knew almost nothing about this virus. Collectively, we have learned an enormous amount. And every day, we learn more.

WHO is committed to serving all people everywhere with the best evidence to protect their health.WHO develops guidance based on the totality of evidence collected from around the world. Every day, our staff talk to thousands of experts around the world to collect and distil that evidence and experience. We constantly review and update our guidance as we learn more, and we are working to adapt it for specific contexts.

RECOMMENDATIONS & CHALLENGES: For example, we recommend handwashing and physical distancing, but we also recognize this can be a practical challenge for those who lack access to clean water, or who live in cramped conditions. Together with Unicef and the International Federation of the Red Cross, we’ve published new guidance for improving access to handwashing. The guidance recommends that countries set up handwashing stations at the entrance to public buildings, offices, bus stops, and train stations. We’re also working hard with researchers all over the world to generate the evidence about which medicines are most effective for treating COVID-19.

There has been an extraordinary response to our call for countries to join the Solidarity trial, which is comparing four drugs and drug combinations. So far, 74 countries have either joined the trial or are in the process of joining. As of this morning, more than 200 patients had been randomly assigned to one of the study arms. Each new patient who joins the trial gets us one step closer to knowing which drugs work. We’re also continuing to study the evidence about the use of masks. WHO’s priority is that frontline health workers are able to access essential personal protective equipment, including medical masks and respirators.

That’s why we are continuing to work with governments and manufacturers to step up the production and distribution of personal protective equipment, including masks. There’s an ongoing debate about the use of masks at the community level. WHO recommends the use of medical masks for people who are sick and those caring for them. However, in these circumstances, masks are only effective when combined with other protective measures. WHO continues to gather all available evidence and continues to evaluate the potential use of masks more broadly to control COVID-19 transmission at the community level. NEW VIRUS: This is still a very new virus, and we are learning all the time. As the pandemic evolves, so does the evidence, and so does our advice. But what doesn’t change is WHO’s commitment to protecting the health of all people, based on the best science, without fear or favour.

I thank you. DG, World Health Organisation

 JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE BY OHCHR, IOM, UNHCR and WHO joint press release: the rights and health of refugees, migrants and stateless must be protected in COVID-19 response; and another joint press release by  Directors-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO)

CAUTION – PREPARE FOR A POSSIBLE SURGE IN AFRICA; AVOID INTERNET SCAMMERS – WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION — Meanwhile, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus  has cautioned against the activities of cyber scammers and fraudsters. From selling fake coronavirus cures online to a cyberattack on hospitals’ critical information systems, criminals are exploiting the COVID-19 crisis, the United Nations has warned, as it also steps up its fight against a proliferation of false information about the virus. “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic,” says the WHO DG.

Defending Africa from COVID-19; UN and Governments brace for virus spread: As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has swept through Asia, Europe and North America, medical experts are warning that it is just a matter of time before Africa would see an exponential increase in cases.  The United Nations is rushing to protect Africa from the COVID-19 onslaught that would lead to massive losses of lives and unprecedented social and economic damage.  UN Supports Frontline COVID-19 Response: With the coronavirus pandemic extending to some of the world’s poorest countries, the United Nations is in a race against time to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19. UN country teams are redoubling their support for frontline responders and working to help vulnerable countries strengthen their healthcare infrastructure.

WHO BRIEF: SUBJECT IN FOCUS: Public Health and Social Measures for the COVID-19 Pandemic: The purpose of this note is to outline public health and social measures useful for slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19 at national or community level. Guidance for case finding and management, personal and environmental measures, travel measures, and mass gatherings is available on the WHO website available here. Public health and social measures are measures or actions by individuals, institutions, communities, local and national governments and international bodies to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • These measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19 include individual and environmental measures, detecting and isolating cases, contact tracing and quarantine, social and physical distancing measures including for mass gatherings, international travel measures, and vaccines and treatments. While vaccines and specific medications are not yet available for COVID-19, other public health and social measures play an essential role in reducing the number of infections and saving lives. Social and physical distancing measures aim to slow the spread of disease by stopping chains of transmission of COVID-19 and preventing new ones from appearing. These measures secure physical distance between people (of at least one metre), and reduce contact with contaminated surfaces, while encouraging and sustaining virtual social connection within families and communities.
  • Measures for the general public include introducing flexible work arrangements such as teleworking, distance learning, reducing and avoiding crowding, closure of non-essential facilities and services, shielding and protection for vulnerable groups, local or national movement restrictions and staying-at home measures, and coordinated reorganization of health care and social services networks to protect hospitals. The measures are used in conjunction with individual protective measures against COVID-19 such as frequent hand washing and cough etiquette. All public health measures to stop disease spread can be balanced with adaptive strategies to encourage community resilience and social connection, protect incomes and secure the food supply. Countries should balance the possible benefits and negative consequences of each intervention and deploy strategies to encourage community engagement, gain trust and limit social or economic harm.
  • There are many strategies that can support community resilience and mental health, protect access to essential goods and services, and limit the economic impact of stayat-home measures where these are deemed necessary. For example, organizing work-sites to ensure physical distance between persons, such as staggering shifts over time, or converting on-site service to home delivery may help to keep more businesses open. Tele-working and tele-schooling strategies in different contexts demonstrate innovation and the role of technology in supporting business continuity and sustaining social connection within families and communities. In general, implementation of distancing measures should also aim to sustain personal and professional community connections by virtual means and technology, including widely accessible means such as radio and mobile phones. Alongside all these measures remains there is the critical to test all suspected cases of COVID-19 wherever possible, promptly isolate cases, trace contacts to the widest extent possible, and ensure quarantine of contacts for the duration of the incubation period. This goes for any context or level of spread of the pandemic in a country, in order to deepen the benefits of social measures.
  • Social measures should make the task of contact tracing much easier as the number of contacts rapidly dwindles and eventually the number of cases declines as well. As social measures are lifted, it is essential to continue to strengthen case-finding, isolation for COVID-19 cases and quarantine of contacts, in order to respond to resurgent or imported cases. Coordinated reorganization of health and social services is essential to assess and test persons rapidly, treat patients effectively, and protect hospitals and health personnel. WHO has described four levels of COVID-19 transmission. These are countries or local areas with: 1. No cases reported. 2. Sporadic cases. 3. Clusters of cases (grouped in place and time), or 4. Community transmission. Countries are putting in place a range of public health and social measures in different combinations and at varying times in the local evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic. The alignment of public health measures to levels of transmission in a community is not fixed in stone.
  • Countries may wish to specify which measures are to be taken at each level and review the situation regularly. A package of measures may be applied at local, regional or national level and adjusted as needed, considering aspects such as culture, living environments, terrain and access to needed resources. Essential services should remain operational and governments should put in place social and economic policies to limit the longer term economic impact, support community resilience and enable rapid recovery. Most importantly, the ultimate aim is to ‘walk back’ community transmission to clusters, sporadic cases, and down to no cases at all, and to begin gradually lifting social measures as soon as it is safe to do so. Guidance for lifting measures is being developed. To be effective, public health measures must be implemented with the full engagement of all members of society, including communities and professional groups. All measures should be accompanied with clear, accessible and regular risk communication to explain the response strategy and enable people to make informed decisions to protect themselves and help achieve the public health goal of ending the outbreak.
  • A table summarizing public health and social measures to support control of COVID-19 will be available at www.who.int/epi-win.

BEWARE OF INTERNET FRAUDSTERS – WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION — The World Health Organisation in its daily media briefing today revealed that:

  • Three new countries/territories/areas reported cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours: Botswana, Burundi, and Sierra Leone. WHO’s scientific brief on the off-label use of medicines for COVID-19. A number of medicines have been suggested as potential investigational therapies, many of which are now being or will soon be studied in clinical trials, including the SOLIDARITY trial co-sponsored by WHO and participating countries. More information can be found here.
  • WHO recognizes the importance of addressing the needs of refugees and migrants when preparing for or responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO European Region has released a guidance document to assist healthcare working with refugees and migrants. More information can be found here.
  • Recalls that a press briefing, held 31st March, PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne stressed that countries of the Americas must act now to slow the spread of COVID-19. WHO encourages countries to prepare hospitals and health facilities, protect their health personnel, and decide what social distancing measures need to be implemented and for how long, among other actions. Find more here.
  • Public health and social measures to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19 must be implemented with the full engagement of all members of society. WHO has described four levels of COVID-19 transmission with varying public health and social measures depending on the local evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.

WAITING PERIOD OF 18 MONTHS TOO FAR – EXPERTS SAY IT IS RISKY; JOIN ISSUES WITH WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Experts have observed that the 12-18 months waiting period for the production of vaccines against CUPID-19 is too long period   Eighteen months might sound like a long time, but in vaccine years, it’s a blink and could come at the expense of safety. CNN quotes Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar focused on emerging infectious disease at the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University. “Vaccine development is usually measured in years, not months “I don’t think it’s ever been done at an industrial scale in 18 months,” said Vaccine trials typically start with testing in animals before launching into a three-phase process.

ANIMALS TRIAL: Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, told Stat that while he recognizes the importance of animal trials, the urgency of the current public emergency makes it worth the trade-off. “When you hear predictions about it taking at best a year or a year and a half to have a vaccine available … there’s no way to come close to those timelines unless we take new approaches. ‘’Ever since, that estimate of 12-18 months has become gospel, its appearance in media stories ubiquitous. But medical experts and scientists with firsthand experience developing vaccines are skeptical.

The problem is, experts say, the oft-stated timetable is ambitious at best. “I don’t think it’s ever been done at an industrial scale in 18 months,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, said “Vaccine development is usually measured in years, not months.” Vaccine trials typically start with testing in animals before launching into a three-phase process. The first phase involves injecting the vaccine into a small group of people to assess safety and monitor their immune response.  The second ramps up the number of people  — often into the hundreds, and often including more members of at-risk groups — for a randomized trial. If the results are promising, the trial moves to phase-three test for efficacy and safety with thousands or tens of thousands of people.

SPEEDING UP THE PROCESS: CNN reports say Dr. Emily Erbelding, an infectious disease expert at NIAID — which is part of the National Institutes of Health — said the typical vaccine takes between eight and 10 years to develop. While she is careful not to contradict her boss’s timeline — although she did say “18 months would be about as fast as I think we can go” — she acknowledged that the accelerated pace will involve “not looking at all the data.” “Because we are in a race here to beat back this epidemic and a vaccine is very important, people might be willing to take a chance on just going quickly into phase two. “So the 18 months would rely upon speeding things up.”

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