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COVID-19 one of the toughest challenges we’ve ever faced – WHO

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DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says though every new disease outbreak presents new challenges, however, from a logistics perspective, COVID-19 has been one of the toughest challenges the UN agency has ever faced.

  Tedros said this is because the respiratory disease passes relatively easily between people.

  The DG spoke today in Geneva during the media briefing on COVID-19.

  He noted that when the outbreak started, there was an urgent need to get advice, information, training and equipment to front line workers.

  “On the fifth of January, days after a cluster of unknown pneumonia was identified in Wuhan, China; WHO shared detailed information on the cases with the world and advised all countries and emergency contact points to take precautions to reduce the risk of severe acute respiratory infections,” the briefing reads in part.

  Between the tenth and twelfth of January, WHO published a package of guidance documents for countries.

  This covered topics related to the management of an outbreak of a new disease – including finding and testing for the disease, caring for patients and infection prevention and control measures to protect health care workers.

  By the second week of January, China had mapped the genome and shared it with WHO and the wider world.

  We rapidly published a “how to” on building a PCR test for COVID-19 from our partner lab in Germany.

  In the third week, WHO identified and began contracting for validated production of these tests.

  By the first week of February, we began shipping tests to over 150 labs around the world, which enabled the countries to quickly identify, track and trace the virus.

  As this was happening, and outbreaks started to spread in other countries, there was a huge surge in demand for personal protective equipment, such as medical masks, gowns, gloves and face protection.

  Manufacturers in several key countries were under so-called lockdown and there was a collapse in air transport, which is imperative for sending supplies around the world.

  Some countries put in place export restrictions and there were several instances of requisitioning key medical supplies for national use.

  Supply nationalism exacerbated the pandemic and contributed to the total failure of the global supply chain.

  For a period of time, some countries were without key supplies, such as key items for health workers who were dealing with surging cases of COVID-19. And many countries still do not have enough.

  To boost manufacturing and ensure that supply chains began to function, early on in the outbreak WHO convened regular meetings with key companies and industry groups.

  WHO worked closely with the World Food Programme and quickly utilised nine new and existing logistics hubs to establish a solid supply chain to deliver lifesaving PPE and medical supplies around the world.

  WHO worked with partners like UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation to purchase and deliver hundreds of millions of pieces of protective equipment for health workers.

  The Partners Platform, created at the end of January, has become a critical tool to help countries highlight financial, supply and personnel needs and deliver the necessary public health response.

  WHO worked to unblock bottlenecks by working with public and private partners to increase supplies within the market.

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