by Rafaela Prifti/
The coronavirus pandemic has imposed a new normal. The assertion of the WHO Director-General is that alongside tracing and testing of each case, countries will have to address the crisis impact on human rights and mental health, as the World Food Programme warned of multiple famines pushing millions to the brink of starvation. In the domestic front, US House expected to pass $500 billion coronavirus bill, the majority of Americans support the steps taken by government officials to prevent transmission of COVID-19, reports of two death cases in California throw the virus timeline back by a few weeks, and previously undescribed report by FEMA foresaw with accuracy the nationwide pandemic. The document predicted that it would result in a shortage of medical supplies, overwhelmed hospitals and the shutdown of the economy. The warnings were contained in the 2019 National Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment published in July. In the US, there are 840,625 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 46,996 deaths, CDC reports today.
At a news conference on Monday, the World Health Organization chief warned that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus outbreak. Although the Director-General did not give any specifics to reporters in Geneva, he and many health experts have expressed concern on the likely spread of the illness in Africa. The warning revived the alarm just as many countries in Asia and Europe have begun to ease restrictive measures aimed at reducing its spread. The UN agency led by Mr. Tedros has been on the defensive after President Trump ordered a halt to U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, alleging that it botched the early response to the outbreak. Mr. Trump’s decision to temporarily suspend payments to WHO triggered international statements of support for the United Nations agency. While Mr. Trump’s criticism of the WHO is shared by those who argue that the agency is unwilling to hold Beijing sufficiently accountable, U.S. allies disagreed with a suspension of payments and were not planning to follow suit.
In his remarks at Wednesday’s briefing, the Director General stated that almost 2.5 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, and more than
160,000 deaths. While most of the epidemics in Western Europe appear to be stable or declining, he said that there are worrying upward trends in Africa, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. According to the data collected by WHO, most countries are still in the early stages of their epidemics. And some that were affected early in the pandemic are now starting to see a resurgence in cases. Recognizing the impact of the restrictive measures like lockdowns and social distancing in curbing the transmission, Mr. Tedros contended that the “this virus will be with us for a long time,” and “remains extremely dangerous.” Early evidence suggests most of the world’s population remains susceptible. That means epidemics can easily re-ignite. While sympathizing with the frustration shared by people who understandably want to get on with their lives, the Head of WHO affirmed that the “world will not and cannot go back to the way things were.” There must be a “new normal” – a world that is healthier, safer and better prepared. Raising the issue of human rights, stigma and discrimination related to COVID-19, Mr. Tedros pointed out that the fight cannot be effective without empowering people. To that end, the UN agency works with experts around the world to provide guidance and generate assistance that is made available to all countries. The global response involves WHO staff in 150 countries who work directly with governments, scientists and partners to coordinate national preparedness, response plans, and implementation practices. In addition to providing support, the agency also tracks progress globally. According to Mr. Tedros, there are still many gaps in the world’s defenses, and no single country has everything in place. He announced the partnering with telecommunications companies to reach people directly on their mobile phones with text messages about COVID-19. Adding that his agency has called on the World Trade Organization to ensure the normal cross-border flow of vital medical supplies and other goods and services, and to resolve unnecessary disruptions to global supply chains. In the end, Mr. Tedros noted that the holy month of Ramadan that starts tomorrow is “a season of reflection and community – an opportunity for kindness and solidarity.”
In related news, the UN warned that the world is facing multiple famines of “biblical proportions” in just a matter of months. The coronavirus pandemic will push an additional 130 million people to the brink of starvation. Famines could take hold in “about three dozen countries” in a worst-case scenario, said the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), adding that ten of those countries already have more than 1 million people on the verge of starvation.
While in the domestic front, the news agencies report of The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) remarkably accurate predictions issued in July 2019 that a pandemic caused by a novel strain of influenza would cripple the country‘s response capabilities by driving millions of people into overwhelmed hospitals. “The FEMA report was written before the new coronavirus first surfaced in China, offered these prescient predictions: The deluge of patients would create “a shortage of medical supplies, equipment, beds, and healthcare workers.” The report, not previously described, was drafted in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and other federal organizations. With detail about widespread “social distancing” and “the overcrowding of hospitals and medical centers,” the federal government‘s disaster agency provides perhaps the strongest contradiction of President Trump‘s assertions that the scope of the current pandemic could not have been foreseen.
As the news and updates on the pandemic appear with frequency, we encourage our readers to stay informed and share with your story with us if you wish, support the medical workers and most importantly continue to be kind and take care of one another.