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WHO says measures to be taken vs COVID-19 should be based on science, evidence

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus has called on nations to let science lead government policies and efforts against the novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that confirmed cases of coronavirus being transmitted by people who have never travelled to China could be the 'tip of the iceberg' (AFP Photo/Fabrice COFFRINI)

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus(AFP Photo/Fabrice COFFRINI/ FILE)

At the Munich Security Conference in Germany over the weekend, Ghebreyesus said the fight against the COVID-19 requires a “coherent and coordinated” whole-of government approach that is guided by evidence and public health priorities.

“In many countries, measures have been taken by one part of government without appropriate consultation with the health ministry, or consideration of the impact of these measures,” he said in his speech.

“Now more than ever is the time for us to let science and evidence lead policy. If we don’t, we are headed down a dark path that leads nowhere but division and disharmony,” he added.

Ghebreyesus said the epidemics, like COVID-19, underscore anew the importance of investing in preparedness, and not panic.

He cited a report by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, saying the world remains “badly prepared” for such outbreaks.

“For too long, the world has operated on a cycle of panic and neglect. We throw money at an outbreak, and when it’s over, we forget about it and do nothing to prevent the next one,” the WHO chief lamented.

“The world spends billions of dollars preparing for a terrorist attack, but relatively little preparing for the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly and far more damaging economically, politically and socially,” he further said.

Ghebreyesus, in his speech, called anew for solidarity, and an end to hate amid the COVID-19 scare.

He maintained that he will continue to give credit to China, like any other countries, for “aggressively” fighting the outbreak and protecting its people and those of the world.

“It’s easy to blame. It’s easy to politicize. It’s harder to tackle a problem together, and find solutions together. We will all learn lessons from this outbreak. But now is not the time for recriminations or politicization,” he said.

“The greatest enemy we face is not the virus itself; it’s the stigma that turns us against each other. We must stop stigma and hate!” he appealed.

In its situation report for February 16, the WHO said it recorded 51,857 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, mostly coming from China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

China has reported to the WHO 1,666 deaths due to the new coronavirus, while three deaths came from outside the country, including one from the Philippines.

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