The World Health Organisation (WHO) says more than six million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded worldwide and more than 370,000 people have lost their lives due to the virus as of Monday, June 1st.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO said in his opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 said the organisation will continue to respond to other health emergencies and new disease outbreaks while it works with governments across the world to suppress the virus and accelerate science around diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
This comes after the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Monday announced that a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease has been detected near the city of Mbandaka in Équateur province.
The announcement follows a complex Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC, which seems to be in its final phase. The new one is on the other side of the DRC in the northwest.
“WHO will continue supporting DRC in tackling Ebola, as well as responding to COVID-19 and the world’s largest measles outbreak,” he said.
He said the WHO has seen that mass gatherings have the potential to act as super spreading events and the WHO has released updated guidance to help organisations determine how and when mass gatherings can safely resume.
“For example, WHO has worked closely with several sporting organizations including FIFA, UEFA, Formula 1 and religious groups including Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which oversees the Hajj, as they conduct risk assessments around mass gatherings,” he said.
WHO has updated its risks assessment tool so that organisations can score each risk factor and control measure, which results in an overall risk score and make the decision on how best to proceed.
Dr Ghebreyesus said the WHO was also providing operational guidance on how best to maintain essential health services through the COVID-19 pandemic
He said ensuring coordination and development of new ways to deliver care while limiting visits to health facilities was key to keeping people safe and ensuring health systems are not overburdened.
“This means using digital technologies to deliver some routine services remotely, and expanding the number of medications delivered to the home,” he noted
One of the areas in which health services have been particularly affected is in care for people with non-communicable diseases including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, or a chronic respiratory disease.
He said the WHO has observed that people living with NCDs are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19, but many people living with non-communicable diseases are no longer able to access the medicines that they need.
WHO conducted a rapid assessment of service delivery for NCDs during the COVID-19 pandemic with 155 countries submitting data.
The results released on Monday showed that more than half of the countries surveyed have partially or completely disrupted services for the treatment of hypertension; half for treatment of diabetes and related complications; and 42% for cancer treatment, and 31% for cardiovascular emergencies. Rehabilitation services have been disrupted in almost two-thirds of countries.
He stated that the COVID-19 response must, therefore, be inclusive of the health-care needs of people living with non-communicable diseases.
Dr Ghebreyesus further observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased use of antibiotics, which ultimately will lead to higher bacterial resistance rates that will impact the burden of disease and deaths during the pandemic and beyond.
He added that in the current Clinical Management of COVID-19, Interim Guidance, WHO has outlined the appropriate use of antibiotic therapy for medical professionals to treat patients.