On October 30, 2020, the Aegean Sea was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Greece and Turkey and faced with building collapse and medical emergencies on top of Covid19. The pandemic has its own set of dangers and pitfall as well so does the earthquake. When the two are combined the result is sure to overwhelm medical systems and supplies to the region putting many people at risk.
Press Release from WHO
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.
I want to start by noting that WHO is closely following the unfolding situation in Greece and Turkey after the earthquake today.
We will work with the two countries to ensure that emergency medical care is provided to those in need.
Our thoughts are with all those affected.
Over the past few months, I have heard first hand from people who face mid to long-term effects of COVID-19 infection.
What’s really concerning is the vast spectrum of symptoms that fluctuate over time, often overlap and can affect any system in the body.
From fatigue, a cough and shortness of breath, to inflammation and injury of major organs – including the lungs and heart. And even neurological and psychologic effects.
Although we’re still learning about the virus, what’s clear is that this is not just a virus that kills people.
To a significant number of people, this virus poses a range of serious long-term effects.
While people do recover, it can be slow – sometimes weeks or months – and it is not always a linear route to recovery.
Though exact numbers of people experiencing the long-term affects are not yet clearly defined, post COVID-19 symptoms and complications have been reported in both non-hospitalised and hospitalised patients.
There have been cases in women and men, both young and old. And even in children.
WHO will continue to do more research to establish best standards of care to accelerate recovery and prevent such complications.
It is imperative that governments recognise the long-term effects of COVID-19 and also ensure access to health services to all of these patients.
This includes primary health care and when needed specialty care and rehabilitation.
I’d now like to hand over the floor to three patients who are still combatting the long-term effects of COVID-19 so that we can hear their stories.
First, Professor Paul Garner from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine who has himself been recovering from COVID-19 since March.
Paul the floor is yours.
Thank you so much Professor Garner for sharing your experience.
And now to Martha Sibanda, a nurse who is joining us from Jo’burg, South Africa. Marta, the floor is yours.
Thank you Martha for taking the time to share your experience with us.
I would now like to hear from Lyth Hishmeh from the United. Lyth is a member of Long COVID SOS, a patient advocacy group in the UK.
You have the Sir
Listening to Paul, Martha and Lyth share their experiences and array of symptoms, it really reinforces what a dangerous virus COVID-19 is.
Your stories underscore that those facing the long-term effects of the virus must be given the time and care they need to recover fully.
It also reinforces to me just how morally unconscionable and unfeasible the so called ‘natural herd immunity’ strategy is.
Not only would it lead to millions more unnecessary deaths, it would also lead to a significant number of people facing a long road to full recovery.
Herd immunity is only possible with safe and effective vaccines that are distributed equitably around the world.
And until we have a vaccine, governments and people must do all that they can to suppress transmission, which is the best way to prevent these post-COVID long-term consequences.
In that vein, the Emergency Committee on COVID-19 has just concluded a two day meeting where they discussed the way forward.
With global cases continuing to rise and some countries going in the wrong direction, the group has made a series of recommendations for WHO and Member States to act on.
The take home message is that it’s important for governments and citizens to keep focused on breaking the chains of transmission.
Governments should focus on tackling the virus and avoid politicisation.
No matter where they are in terms of the outbreak, they should keep investing in the health system and workforce and improving testing, tracing and treatment of all cases.
And there is light at the end of the tunnel.
As well as rapid tests and dexamethasone, several vaccines are now in final phase three trials.
If proved safe and effective they will be rolled out through the ACT Accelerator’s vaccine arm – the COVAX Facility, which is now supported by 186 countries.
I thank Lebanon and Botswana for joining recently.
The committee recommended that to prepare for new COVID-19 vaccines, WHO and governments must work closely to develop rollout strategies, train health workers and ensure clear communications with the general public about vaccination.
Just as we look forward with hope, WHO continues to work to establish the origins of the virus to prevent future outbreaks.
Today, a group of international experts had their first virtual meeting with their Chinese counterparts.
I joined to thank them and offer any and all support to ensure the success of their ongoing research.
From the long-term effects of COVID-19, to breaking the chains of transmission, to establishing the origins of the virus, WHO will continue to work in partnership across the world to drive science, solutions and solidarity.
I thank you
Listen to the WHO Press conference here: