WHO: The world has a 'second window of opportunity' to stop the coronavirus, but 6 key actions are needed
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- The World Health Organization on Wednesday outlined six "key actions" countries should take to stamp out COVID-19.
- The actions include more testing for the coronavirus, training and deploying more healthcare workers, clear plans for isolating sick patients, and refocusing "the whole of government."
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More than 20,000 people have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, as it continues to circle the globe, lapping from Italy and the US back around to China, South Korea, and Singapore.
People across California, London, and India, among other places, are now on lockdown, as others around the world are practicing "social distancing" in the hopes they'll avoid spreading the novel coronavirus to new crowds of healthy people.
"Asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement is buying time and reducing the pressure on health systems, but on their own, these measures will not extinguish epidemics," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday in Geneva.
"We call on all countries who have introduced so-called 'lockdown' measures to use this time to attack the virus," Tedros added, saying "you have created a second window of opportunity. The question is: how will you use it?"
Here are the six "key actions" that the WHO recommends countries adopt right now to stop COVID-19 - but they're not all exactly easy to snap immediately into place:
1. 'Expand, train, and deploy your healthcare and public health workforce'
In New York, there's been such a shortage of healthcare workers for the state's more than 30,800 confirmed COVID-19 cases, that the governor is asking medical workers to come out of retirement to help with care, even though older adults are more at risk of developing serious complications (and dying) from the novel coronavirus.
NYU is letting its medical students graduate early this spring, too.
2. 'Implement a system to find every suspected case at community level'
This style of contact tracing is a "round the clock" job in Singapore, where tracers use surveillance footage, ATM records, and detailed interviews to find out where sick people have been during the time they might've been contagious.
3. 'Ramp up production capacity and availability of testing'
Easier said then done. After a botched testing rollout to state health departments by the US Centers for Disease Control in early February, the country is ramping up its testing capacity, with more private test kits, and drive-thru swab stations. But the US still lags far behind the likes of South Korea, Italy, and China when it comes to testing the population at large.
4. Identify, adapt and equip facilities you will use to treat and isolate patients
China built hospitals in mere days during the height of its COVID-19 outbreak, and now New York is trying out the same strategy, converting convention centers and universities into temporary hospital sites.
But the process is not instantaneous. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated that converting the Javits Center, New York City's largest convention center, into a 1,000-bed hospital, is going to take about a week.
5. Develop a clear plan and process to quarantine contacts
14-day self quarantines are being recommended to stop travelers moving out of COVID-19 hotspots from spreading the virus further, but not everyone agrees on who should and shouldn't perform these quarantines, and everyone does their own a little differently.
6. Mobilize the whole government to focus on suppressing and controlling COVID-19
In the US, President Trump has suggested that "it would be a beautiful time" to see "packed churches all over our country for Easter," despite warnings from public health experts that the coronavirus outbreak will still be in full swing across the US at that time.
Further south in Brazil, President Bolsonaro called the virus a "little flu" (it's not, and it's 10 times more deadly than seasonal flu), and he urged Brazilians to get back to work, as the country logged its 2,200th case.
"These measures are the best way to suppress and stop transmission so that when restrictions are lifted, the virus doesn't resurge," Tedros said. "The last thing any country needs is to open schools and businesses only to be forced to close them again because of a resurgence. Aggressive measures to find, isolate, test, treat, and trace are not only the best and fastest way out of extreme social and economic restrictions, they are also the best way to prevent them."
The WHO also reiterated the United Nations call for a global ceasefire during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are all facing a common threat, and the only way to defeat it is by coming together as one humanity, because we are one, one human race," Tedros said.
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