WHO: COVID-19 pandemic to be a long-term battle

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    Handwashing will continue to be a most powerful weapon against COVID-19. The WHO expects an even longer period needed to battle it. (Photo by UNICEF)

    THE coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will be a long-term battle that people should be prepared for, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday, about two months since the start of the outbreak.

    “It’s unlikely this virus will disappear next week or even next month,” said Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, in a virtual press conference.

    “(So we are) now using this opportunity to send message that this battle is going to be a long-term battle,” he added.

    The disease, which originated from China, has now spread to 204 countries and territories. WHO figures show that as of March 31, there were 697,244 confirmed cases and 33,257 confirmed deaths

    The Philippines has 2,084 cases and 88 fatalities, also as of March 31.

    Kasai said that aside from an extended fight, member-states must also get ready for a bigger and wider spread of the COVID-19.

    “We want every country to respond according to clinical situations but also prepare for large-scale community outbreaks,” said Kasai.

    Asked if this means that he thinks the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine imposed in the Philippines should be extended beyond April 14, he said it must first undergo careful deliberation.

    “Obviously, these measures can’t continue forever. At some point, the government needs to think when to lift these measures. When you do that, again, we have to make a careful consideration of the epidemiological situation and impact of the lockdown. We may have to peel it one by one,” he said.

    “(With the) lockdown, we need to balance the control of diseases and to bring the society back to normal,” he added.

    For the moment, he said, what is important is to ensure that the lockdown will be effective in curb the spread of the disease.

    “To make the lockdown effective, obviously, the government has to ensure basic lifelines will be maintained. If you don’t have those kinds of structures, it is very difficult to make those measures work,” Kasai said

    “(For the) lockdown to be effective, we also have to continue to find cases, isolate cases, treat them early, and also trace and quarantine the close contacts,” added Kasai.

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