The World Health Organization has called on member
states in South East Asia to urgently scale-up aggressive measures
to combat COVID19, as confirmed cases cross 480, and the disease
claims eight lives.
“The situation is evolving rapidly. We need to
immediately scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from
infecting more people,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional
Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
Eight of the 11 countries of WHO South East Asia
Region have confirmed cases of COVID19. While Thailand has 177
confirmed cases, Indonesia 134, India 125, Sri Lanka 19, Maldives
13, Bangladesh 5, Nepal and Bhutan one each, the numbers are
“More clusters of virus transmission are being
confirmed. While this is an indication of an alert and effective
surveillance, it also puts the spotlight on the need for more
aggressive and whole of society efforts to prevent further spread
of COVID19. We clearly need to do more, and urgently,” the
Regional Director said. “Looking at the numbers, some countries
are clearly heading towards community transmission of COVID19.”
Of critical importance are continued efforts to
detect, test, treat, isolate and trace contacts.
“Simple public health measures are critical.
Practicing proper and adequate hand hygiene, covering your cough and sneeze, and
practicing social distancing cannot be emphasized enough,” Dr Singh said. “This alone has the potential to
substantially reduce transmission.”
However, if community transmission does set in,
countries will need to gear their responses to slow down
transmission, as well as end outbreaks. Emergency mechanisms would then need to be further
scaled up, and a network of health facilities and hospitals for triage
and surge would need to be activated to avoid overcrowding.
Self-initiated isolation by people with mild
diseases would continue to be the most important community
intervention to reduce the burden on health system and reduce
Testing of all suspected cases, symptomatic
contacts of probable and confirmed cases, would still be needed.
“We need to be geared to respond to the evolving
situation with the aim to stop transmission of COVID19 at the
earliest to minimize the impact of the virus that has gripped over
150 countries in a short span of time, causing substantial loss to
health of people, societies, countries and economies. Urgent and
aggressive measures are the need of the hour. We need to act now,”
added Dr Singh.