The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says he is encouraged that several countries are now starting to plan how to ease social restrictions that restricted the movement of their citizens in the phase of COVID-19.
He, however, has cautioned that the lifting of the “lockdown restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country; it’s just the beginning of the next phase”.
It is critical that these measures are a phased process”, he said when addressing the G20 Health Ministers virtual meeting held in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, April 19.
The G20 is made up of 19 countries and the European Union. The 19 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US.
The D-G of the WHO said it was vital in the next phase that countries educate, engage and empower their people to prevent and respond rapidly to any resurgence;
He explained that countries would have to ensure they have the capacity to detect, test, isolate and care for every case, and trace every contact; and to ensure their health systems have the capacity to absorb any increase in cases.
He, therefore, called for urgent support to enable countries to respond to the pandemic, and to ensure that other essential health services continued.
He said the WHO would continue to fulfil its mandate to coordinate the global response, working with partners to save lives.
He, however, stated that one of the biggest challenges “we face in Africa and other countries is the critical shortage of supplies, and the ability to deliver them because of weak supply chains.”
Nevertheless, the WHO said it was working with International Chamber of Commerce and the B20 group of business leaders from the G20 countries to increase the production and equitable distribution of the life-saving tools including PPEs.
“Through the United Nations Supply Chain Task Force, we’re working with the World Food Programme and other partners to distribute personal protective equipment to countries all over the world”, he added.
He also requested countries to continue to fight the pandemic with determination, guided by science and evidence; and asked the G20 countries to continue to support the global response to COVID-19.
“We echo President Ramaphosa’s appeal on behalf of the African Union to G20 countries to support African countries with stimulus packages and debt relief so they can focus on fighting the pandemic”.
“We call on all G20 countries to work together to increase the production and equitable distribution of essential supplies, and to remove trade barriers that put health workers and their patients at risk”.