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)

Calling it an essential investment in saving lives, as well as in the longer-term social and economic recovery, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday highlighted the significance of financing health response.

More than one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, including more than 50,000 deaths, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing, noting the profound social and economic consequences of the pandemic.

“We are in a shared struggle to protect both lives and livelihoods,” Tedros said, suggesting countries to ease the burden on their populations through social welfare programs to ensure people have food and other life essentials in the short term.

Meanwhile, Tedros called on all countries to ensure core public health measures are fully funded, including case-finding, testing, contact tracing, data collecting, as well as communication and information campaigns.

He also called for strengthening the foundations of health systems and removing financial barriers to care.

Tedros pointed out that health workers must be paid salaries, while health facilities need a reliable supply of funding to purchase essential medical supplies.

WHO encourages the measures by several countries of suspending user fees and providing free testing and care for COVID-19, Tedros said, reminding those countries to compensate providers for the loss of revenues.

“Governments should also consider using cash transfers to the most vulnerable households to overcome barriers to access,” Tedros added.

Besides, the WHO chief stressed that the best way for countries to end restrictions and ease their economic effects is to attack the virus with the aggressive and comprehensive package of measures, namely find, test, isolate and treat every case, as well as trace every contact.

Tedros warned against attempts to lift restrictions too quickly, saying that the virus could then resurge and the economic impact could be even more severe and prolonged. Enditem

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