Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks at a press conference after the WHO emergency committee's meeting on the novel coronavirus in China at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Qu)
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that as the organization is continuing to lead the R&D, more than 100 countries have joined the efforts to evaluate therapeutics for COVID-19.

A total of 1,200 patients have been randomized from the first five countries, he said at a virtual press conference from Geneva.

“This week, we expect that more than 600 hospitals will be ready to start enrolling patients. The faster we recruit patients, the faster we will get results,” Tedros said.

Welcoming the accelerated development and validation of tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies, the WHO chief said this will help the world to understand the extent of infection in the population.

He told reporters that WHO is providing technical, scientific and financial support for the rollout of sero-epidemiologic surveys across the world.

However, according to Tedros, while antibody tests are important for knowing who has been infected, tests that find the virus are a core tool for active case finding, diagnosis, isolation and treatment.

“One of WHO’s priorities is to work with partners to increase the production and equitable distribution of diagnostics to the countries that need them most,” he added.

To achieve that, he said, WHO has worked with FIND, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, to identify and validate five tests that can be manufactured in large quantities.

“Working together with the Global Fund, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and Unitaid, we have now placed orders for 30 million tests over the next four months,” he said. Enditem

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