Rigorously implement public health, social measures: WHO

‘Risk assessment should measure both the actual ability to deliver services, and the performance of those services’

Published - June 20, 2021 06:38 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

WHO logo is pictured outside the building in Geneva. File

WHO logo is pictured outside the building in Geneva. File

The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised countries in the South-East Asia region to scale up and rigorously implement public health and social measures, along with efforts to accelerate vaccination for COVID-19, to prevent another surge, as more countries confirmed prevalence of highly transmissible variants of concern.

“We need to continuously strengthen our efforts to test, trace and isolate. Societal interventions such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and proper wearing of masks need to be stringently implemented. These measures should be in full force and for longer periods in areas reporting more transmissible variants of concerns,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.

The release added that the public health and social measures were part of a wide range of non-pharmaceutical interventions, both individual and societal, and were cost-effective measures to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and save lives.

In addition to personal protective measures, cleaning, disinfection, ventilation, surveillance, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine are recommended. Physical distancing measures include limiting the size of gatherings, maintaining distance in public or workplaces, restrictions in domestic movement, and international travel-related measures.

“These measures are critical for preventing infections, reducing transmission and saving lives,” Dr. Khetrapal Singh said.

Even as countries scale up vaccination against COVID-19, they need to implement public health and social measures in tailored and agile way, she said.

A risk-based approach is needed for public health and social measures. These measures should be implemented by the lowest administrative level and continuously adjusted to the intensity of transmission and the capacity of health systems.

The capacity of health systems includes both clinical care for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19, and public health services such as case detection, diagnostic testing and contact tracing. “Risk assessment should measure both the actual ability to deliver services, and the performance of those services,” Dr. Khetrapal Singh said.

“Where more transmissible Variants of Concern are spreading, these measures need to be applied more stringently and for longer periods,” she added.

Earlier this week, the Maldives and Myanmar confirmed transmission of Variants of Concern. Earlier, the presence of Variants of Concern had been confirmed in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Variants of Concern, along with the opening of economies and societies, contributed to the recent surge in cases globally.

Countries across the world are currently in different phases in the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and face varying epidemiological situations. Though the South-East Asia region is now witnessing an overall decline in cases, mainly due to decreasing number of cases reported in India, in some other countries, cases are still increasing.

“We must not forget that the pandemic is still around. We must guard against complacency at any level. We must continue to implement combinations of public health and social measures until, globally, there is high COVID-19 vaccine coverage among health workers, and high-risk and vulnerable groups,” the Regional Director said.

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