UNITED NATIONS          -          The World Health Organization (WHO), a UN agency,  has shipped personal protective equipment (PPE) to nearly 70 countries, while 120 nations have received 1.5 million diagnostic kits to support their efforts aimed at dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, its Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.

Speaking at a briefing in Geneva on developments related to COVID-19, he called for building a continuous pipeline to ensure continuity of supply, describing the disease as “an invisible enemy against humanity”.  

Calling it “an amazing achievement”, Tedros said China has reported no domestic cases for the first time.

There is a flow of requests of diagnostics and PPE from many countries, he said, adding “the shortages will continue to be a challenge.” The WHO chief reiterated that all countries should be ready to contain COVID-19, whether they have cases or not.

According to Tedros, only half of the affected countries and regions have so far a clinical referral system in place for COVID-19.

“Considering what we observed lately, when health services are overwhelmed, preparing the system, especially referrals, will be very important,” he stressed.

The WHO chief reported that more than 70 per cent of countries have a national preparedness and response plan for COVID-19, while nearly 90 per cent have lab testing capacity.  While welcoming the good news, he said it is not enough as all countries should be prepared.

“But only half of the countries have a national infection prevention and control programme and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) standards in all healthcare facilities. Only half of countries that have reported to WHO have a clinical referral system in place for COVID-19”, he said. 

“Considering what we observed lately, when health services are overwhelmed, preparing the system, I think preparing the system, especially referrals, will be very important”.  Globally, there are more than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 and 8,000 deaths.

Although a $675 million plan to cover the first three months of COVID-19 response is nearly fully funded, it will not be enough due to the virus’s spread to more countries.

WHO is now working with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other partners on the next phase of the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, which was launched in early February.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund announced on Friday has received $45 million from more than 173,000 individuals and organizations.

Tedros expressed gratitude for the funding, adding that the only way to defeat the pandemic is through solidarity.

“This is a common enemy. Let’s keep that solidarity up”, he said. “We’re one human race, and that suffices, actually. This is an invisible enemy against humanity”.