WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 18 March 2020

In the speech at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 18 March 2020, WHO Director-General emphasized that:

More than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO, and more than 8000 people have lost their lives.
More than 80% of all cases are from two regions – the Western Pacific and Europe.

Every day, WHO is talking to ministers of health, heads of state, health workers, hospital managers, industry leaders, CEOs and more – to help them prepare and prioritize, according to their specific situation.

“Don’t assume your community won’t be affected. Prepare as if it will be.

Don’t assume you won’t be infected. Prepare as if you will be.

But there is hope. There are many things all countries can do.”

But to suppress and control epidemics, countries must isolate, test, treat and trace.

WHO continues to recommend that isolating, testing and treating every suspected case, and tracing every contact, must be the backbone of the response in every country. This is the best hope of preventing widespread community transmission.Most countries with sporadic cases or clusters of cases are still in the position to do this.
Many countries are listening to our call and finding solutions to increase their ability to implement the full package of measures that have turned the tide in several countries.

WHO is working in solidarity with other countries with community transmission to apply the lessons learned in Korea and elsewhere, and adapt them to the local context.

Likewise, WHO continues to recommend that, wherever possible, confirmed mild cases should be isolated in health facilities, where trained professionals can provide good medical care, and prevent clinical progression and onward transmission.

If that’s not possible, countries can use community facilities to isolate and care for mild cases and refer them for specialized care quickly if needed.

If health facilities are at risk of being overwhelmed, people with mild disease can be cared for at home.

Although this is not the ideal situation, WHO has advice on our website for how home-care can be provided as safely as possible.

WHO continues to call on all countries to implement a comprehensive approach, with the aim of slowing down transmission and flattening the curve.

We commend the researchers around the world who have come together to systemically evaluate experimental therapeutics.

Multiple small trials with different methodologies may not give us the clear, strong evidence we need about which treatments help to save lives.

WHO and its partners are therefore organizing a study in many countries in which some of these untested treatments are compared with each other.

As you know, the first vaccine trial has begun, just 60 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was shared by China. This is an incredible achievement.

“This virus is presenting us with an unprecedented threat. But it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against a common enemy – an enemy against humanity.



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