A healthcare worker checks the temperature of a patient at a hospital in Nonthaburi Province, Thailand. Photo collected from UN News (File).
A healthcare worker checks the temperature of a patient at a hospital in Nonthaburi Province, Thailand. Photo collected from UN News (File).UNB

World Health Organisation’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Monday that there’s no silver bullet for a vaccine against COVID-19 pandemic.

There might never be, he told a regular press briefing in Geneva, reports UN News.

He said a number of vaccines are now in phase 3 clinical trials, and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection.

However, there is no silver bullet at the moment, and there might never be, Tedros said.

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“The message to people and governments is clear: do it all,” he stated, “and when it’s under control, keep going!”

WHO director-general Tedros urged all nations to strictly enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing and testing.

“For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control. Testing, isolating and treating patients, and tracing and quarantining their contacts. Do it all,” he said.

“Inform, empower and listen to communities. Do it all.”

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The WHO emergency committee on COVID-19 met Friday to review the current coronavirus pandemic at what chief Tedros called “a sobering moment”.

In Geneva, he recalled that when the Committee met three months ago, WHO had received reports of three million COVID-19 cases and more than 200,000 deaths.

“Since then,” he updated, “the number of cases has increased more than five-fold to 17.5 million, and the number of deaths has more than tripled, to 680,000.”

Mitigation measures

The Committee suggested a range of proposals for countries to bring the virus under control, including enhanced political commitment and leadership for national strategies and localised response activities driven by science, data, and experience.

They also acknowledged that member states have “tough choices” to make to turn the epidemic around.

While recognising that “it’s not easy”, the WHO chief maintained that “when leaders step up and work intensely with their populations”, the disease can be “brought under control”.

“It’s never too late to turn this pandemic around,” Tedros upheld, adding that “if we act together today, we can save lives and livelihoods”.

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Masking up

This week, WHO is also launching a “mask challenge”, by encouraging people to send in photos of themselves wearing a protective mask.

In addition to being a key tool to stop the virus, masks have come to represent solidarity.

“If you’re a health worker, a frontline worker, wherever you are – show us your solidarity in following national guidelines and safely wearing a mask – whether caring for patients or loved ones, riding on public transport to work, or picking up essential supplies,” Tedros urged.

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Breastfeeding during COVID

The UN official reminded that this is breastfeeding awareness week.

He reiterated WHO’s recommendation that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged, the same as all other mothers, to initiate or continue to breastfeed.

He said that the “many, many benefits of breastfeeding for newborn babies and children substantially outweigh the potential risks for COVID-19 infection”.