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While we must continue efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), it is also time that all countries, including PNG prepare for the possibility of wider transmission, says WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, Dr Takeshi Kasai.
“Our region, including PNG is at a critical juncture in the COVID-2019 outbreak,” he said.
“The majority of cases are still in China but the virus has now been confirmed in many parts of the world.
“There are now reports of clusters of cases with no apparent link to China.
“The latest information suggests that the virus may be more transmissible than early data suggested.”
Dr Kasai said this did not mean that the virus would start spreading easily within PNG or elsewhere tomorrow or perhaps ever.
He said, however, while countries were still working hard on containing the virus, everyone must be ready in case there was a wider spread.
“This requires action today.
“This is because preparation takes time, especially to ensure that the response reaches everyone in all parts of the country,” Dr Kasai said.
“Responding to wider transmission would require shifting the focus of activities to protect the vulnerable and minimise the health and social impact. If we don’t prepare now, we will not be able to activate those plans when they are needed.
“For example, in case of wider community transmission, we would need to ensure health facilities can focus on treating the most vulnerable and severe cases.”
He said this may mean planning to switch away from medically isolating or quarantining everyone who is infected to encouraging people with mild illness to stay at home to recover – so that health care facilities do not become overwhelmed.
Dr Kasai said steps must also be taken to ensure health facilities did not become places that amplified the virus’ spread, infecting staff and other patients.
“We must also be ready to make a switch away from testing all suspected cases and tracing the contacts of every person who has the virus, to instead apply limited testing capacity to monitor geographical spread and trends – and using this information to inform decisions about the most appropriate public health response,” he said.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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