The pandemic is likely to be "lengthy", the UN health agency says, and response fatigue is a risk
There might never be a “silver bullet” for Covid-19 in the form of a perfect vaccine, and the road to normality could be long, the World Health Organization has said.
The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the emergencies chief, Mike Ryan, exhorted nations to rigorously enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing and testing.
“The message to people and governments is clear: ‘Do it all’,” Tedros told a virtual news briefing from the UN body’s headquarters in Geneva. He said face masks should become a symbol of solidarity round the world.
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’s no silver bullet at the moment – and there might never be.
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. Inform, empower and listen to communities. Do it all. For individuals, it’s about keeping physical distance, wearing a mask, cleaning hands regularly and coughing safely away from others. Do it all.
The message to people and governments is clear: do it all. And when it’s under control, keep going! Keep strengthening the health system. Keep improving surveillance, contact tracing and ensure disrupted health services are restarted as quickly as possible. Keep safeguards and monitoring in place, because lifting restrictions too quickly can lead to a resurgence.
Ryan said countries with high transmission rates, including Brazil and India, needed to brace for a big battle: “The way out is long and requires a sustained commitment,” he said, calling for a “reset” of approach in some places.
“Some countries are really going to have to take a step back now and really take a look at how they are addressing the pandemic within their national borders,” he added.
Asked about the US outbreak, which White House coronavirus experts say is entering a “new phase”, he said officials seemed to have set out the “right path” and it was not the WHO’s job to do so.
The WHO officials said an advance investigation team had concluded its China mission and laid out the groundwork for further efforts to identify the origins of the virus.
The study is one of the demands made by the WHO’s top donor, the US, which plans to leave the body next year, accusing it of being too acquiescent to China.
A larger, WHO-led team of Chinese and international experts is planned next, including in the city of Wuhan, although the timing and composition of that was unclear.