WHO Daily COVID-19 Briefing, Caution Against Hyperbolic Speculation And Stigma
Earlier today, accredited World Health Organization (WHO) journalists once again gathered for the organization’s daily briefly regarding updates concerning the Coronavirus. Today also marked the beginning of the two day ‘global research and innovation forum‘ to help mobilize and organize the international response to the virus.
Today Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebrysus, WHO-Director General, Dr. Sylvie Briand, Director Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, WHO and Dr. Michael J. Ryan Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme were joined by colleagues Dr. Marie-Paulie Kieny, Co-Chair of the Coronavirus forum, and Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist.
Dr. Ghebreysus began by giving an update regarding the latest Ebola outbreak, “Only three cases in the past week, no cases in the past three days.” The doctor would continue. “We take the progress on Ebola with caution, although it has been a success.”
Dr. Ghebreysus would later announce the official name of the Coronavirus to be COVID-19. The name was chosen under criteria to ensure it did not relate to a person, geographic area, or anything stigmatizing. The COVID-19 provides a standard format to use for future strands of the virus.
The Director continued to explain that as of this morning there are 42,708 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Infectious Disease 2019 [year this strand surfaced]) – in China with 1,017 deaths relating to the virus. “We need investment in stopping this outbreak now,” he said later during his opening address. “If we invest now in rational and evidence-based solutions, we can stop this outbreak now.”
“We have a window of opportunity.” The doctor said near the end of his introduction, a phrase he continues to utter during the daily conferences. He also said China is taking serious measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan to other provinces.
“Many important other sister agencies,” Dr. Michael Ryan responded when asked what other United Nations (UN) agencies are helping to contribute to the understanding of COVID-19. Dr. Ryan mentioned The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The World Bank directly by name. “The goal is to bring together the UN system.”
“We expect a lot from them,” Dr. Ghebreysus said in response to a question about the expectations around Chinese members of the Coronavirus forum. Dr. Kieny added that they expect their Chinese colleagues to help develop the road map used to combat the virus.
“As time passes my confidence will depend on the strength of measures we take,” said Dr. Ghebreysus answering a question regarding how much confidence he has in the virus being contained. He would add that the world needs to invest in countries with weaker health systems as we are as strong as our weakest link in society, “If this virus makes it to a weaker health system, it will create havoc.” Dr. Ghebreysus continued:
It’s a matter social, political, and economic upheavals and that’s why we have to take it seriously. A virus is more powerful in creating social, political, and economic upheavals than any terrorist attack…It’s the number one enemy to the entire world, that’s why we have to invest in health systems and preparedness.
“We’re looking at 300 cases and one death outside of China,” Dr. Michael Ryan answered to a question about the speculation of COVID-19 could reach 60% of the world population. He cautioned against individuals throwing around figures and scaring people when data grounded in reality exists. Dr. Ryan would also caution against stigma and blaming individuals for spreading the disease as it isn’t their fault.