WHO warning and advice

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THE head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a surge in cases and a return to lockdowns if countries emerging from Coronavirus pandemic restrictions do not manage transitions “extremely carefully”. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a virtual briefing from Geneva on Wednesday, listed a series of steps countries needed to take before lifting measures designed to control the spread of the Coronavirus, such as surveillance controls and health system preparedness.
The warning is timely and relevant in view of plans being announced by countries in different regions of the world including Pakistan for resumption of routine life. As about half of the population of the globe is under some form of lockdown measures imposed in an unprecedented global bid to contain the spread of the virus, there seems to be a rush towards normalcy because of ‘fatigue’ syndrome among citizens and adverse impact of the disease on national and global economies. Not to speak of the smaller countries with fewer resources to manage the situation, even developed and resourceful states are finding it difficult to cope with the challenges thrown by the virus and the lockdowns and, therefore, are under pressure to revert them ignoring the ground realities. In such a scenario, WHO needs to host a virtual conference to discuss the issue thoroughly, share experiences and exchange ideas on how best to reopen the economies without compromising safety of lives. This is important as so far there is no treatment or vaccine available and the virus could re-emerge in any point of time in future. The warning from WHO was also accompanied by a plea for countries to invest in their healthcare systems to pre-empt the next pandemic, rather than scrambling to respond when it hits. The advice is particularly important in the Pakistani context where both federal and provincial governments are making negligible investment in healthcare and have left the masses to the mercy of private sector, which too appeared to be unprepared to assist meaningfully in emergencies like the one we are witnessing these days. Apart from infrastructure, there should be special allocations for medical research, starting from the coming budget.

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