Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

World Health Organization Opening Statement on COVID-19

delivered 27 February 2020, Geneva, Switzerland

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address

WHO Situation Report for COVID-19  27 February 2020.pdf


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Thank you. Thank you, Tarik [Jasarevic]. And good afternoon to everyone online and in the room.

Let me start, as usual, with the latest numbers. As of 6am Geneva time this morning, China has reported a total of 48,630 [78,630]1 cases of COVID-19 to W-H-O, including 2,747 deaths.

But as you know, itís what [is] happening in the rest of the world that's now our greatest concern. Outside China, there are now 3,474 cases in 44 countries, and 54 deaths. We're at a decisive point.

For the past two days, the number of new cases reported in the rest of the world has exceeded the number of new cases reported from China. And in the past 24 hours, seven countries have reported cases for the first time: Brazil, Georgia, Greece, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, and Romania.

My message to each of these countries is: This is your window of opportunity. If you act aggressively now, you can contain this virus. You can prevent people [from] getting sick. You can save lives. So my advice to these countries is to move swiftly and contain it at it's bud.

The epidemics in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, and the Republic of Korea demonstrate what this virus is capable of. But this virus is not influenza. With the right measures, it can be contained.

That's one of the key messages from China. The evidence we have is that there does not appear to be widespread community transmission. In Guangdong, scientists tested more than 320,000 samples from the community and only 0.14 -- 0.1-4 percent were positive for COVID-19. That suggested that containment is possible.

Indeed, there are many countries that have done exactly that. There are several countries that have not reported a case for more than two weeks: Belgium, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Philippines, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam. Each of these countries is different. And each shows that aggressive, early measures can prevent transmission before the virus gets a foothold.

Of course, that doesnít mean those countries wonít have more cases. In fact, as of Tuesday, both Finland and Sweden had reported no cases for more than two weeks, but unfortunately both had new cases yesterday.

Thatís why we advance a comprehensive approach. That's why we advocate for a comprehensive approach.2 Every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster, the first evidence of community transmission and for dealing with sustained community transmission. These are four scenarios. And it must be preparing for all of those scenarios at the same time.

No country should assume it wonít get cases. That could be a fatal mistake, and quite literally. This virus does not respect borders. It does not distinguish between races or ethnicities. It has no regard for a countryís GDP or level of development. The point is not only to prevent cases arriving on your shores. The point is what you do when you have cases.

But we're not hopeless. We're not defenseless. There are things every country and every person can do. Every country needs to be ready to detect cases early, to isolate patients, trace contacts, provide quality clinical care, prevent hospital outbreaks, and prevent community transmission.

CDC's Latest Information and Recommendations on COVID-19

There are some vital questions that every country must be asking itself today.

- Are we ready for the first case?

- What will we do when it arrives -- when the first case arrives?

- Do we have an isolation unit ready to go?

- Do we have enough medical oxygen, ventilators, and other vital equipment?

- How will we know if there are cases in other areas of the country?

- Is there a reporting system that health facilities are all using, and a way to raise an alert if there is a concern?

- Do our health workers have the training and equipment they need to stay safe?

- Do our health workers know how to take samples correctly from patients?

- Do we have the right measures at airports and border crossings to test people who are sick?

- Do our labs have the right chemicals that allow them to test samples?

- Are we ready to treat patients with severe or critical disease?

- Do our hospitals and clinics have the right procedures to prevent and control infections?

- Do our people have the right information?

- Do they know what the disease looks like? (Itís not usually a runny nose. In 90 percent of cases itís a fever and in 70 percent of cases a dry cough.)

- Are we ready to fight rumors and misinformation with clear and simple messages that people can understand?

- Are we able to have our people on our side to fight this outbreak?

These are the questions that every health minister must be ready to answer now. These are the questions that can -- when we ask -- that can prepare us. And these are the questions that will be the difference between 1 case and 100 cases in the -- in the coming days and weeks. If the answer to any of these questions is no, your country has a gap that this virus will exploit. I repeat: If the answer to any of these questions is no, your country has a gap that this virus will exploit.

And even developed countries could be surprised. We have already seen a surprise.3 There could be more surprise[s].

Our message continues to be that this virus has pandemic potential and W-H-O is providing the tools to help every country to prepare accordingly. Weíve shipped testing kits to 57 countries and personal protective equipment to 85 countries who need it. And we have trained more than 80,000 health workers through our online courses, in multiple languages. We have issued operational guidelines, with concrete actions countries can take in eight key areas to prevent, detect, and manage cases.

The guidelines also include key performance indicators, and the estimated resources needed to prepare for and respond to a cluster of up to [a] hundred cases. This is not enough, so we will do more. W-H-O stands ready to support every country to develop its national plan.

Once again, this is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action now to prevent infections and save lives now.

Fear and panic doesnít help. People can have concerns and rightly so. People could be worried and rightly so. But the most important thing is to calm down and do the right things to fight this very dangerous virus.

I thank you.

1The official WHO transcript of this address -- widely circulated -- puts the figure at 78,630.

2 The official WHO transcript of this address employs the word "advocate" instead of the delivered "advance" in the first clause and there is no second clause essentially repeating the former.

3 Reference unclear.

Original Text Source: WHO.int

Original Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2019-nCoV-CDC-23312_without_background.png

Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement

See also: CDC Latest Data and Recommendations

Page Updated: 2/29/20

U.S. Copyright Status: Text = CC BY-NC 3.0 IGO. Text modified for consistency with verbal delivery. Hyperlinks added for additional context. Audio = Uncertain. Image = Public domain.
































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