Feb 27, 2020
WHO Coronavirus Update Transcript February 27, 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) held another coronavirus press conference on February 27, 2020 outlining updates on COVID-19. Read the transcript of their update.
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Dr. Tedros: (00:00)
Let’s use this very… This narrowing window of opportunity. He said it many times. It’s getting even more narrow. Let’s use this window of opportunity to mobilize all things. We should do everything, starting from containment, to preparedness for any eventualities, even worst scenario, and give it our best. That’s why I outlined, with more than 12 questions, actually, that a minister should ask from the first case. And the last question is about whether the communities [inaudible 00:00:39] or not, or whether citizens of a certain country are actually well aware and supporting. So, these questions should be answered properly, because we’re in a decisive point.
Dr. Tedros: (00:50)
Decisive because whether we get it wrong or right, it’s in our hands. That’s it. Because we saw both sides. When we handle it well, we see positive result, even [inaudible 00:01:07] eight countries. When we don’t handle it right, then we saw what the consequences are in some countries. Yeah.
Speaker 2: (01:14)
Thank you very much. We have nine minutes, so we will try to squeeze very short questions. Jamie first, and then Miss [Aelle 00:01:22].
Can you hear me? It’s Jamie, over here in the back.
Speaker 2: (01:24)
Quick question. Dr. Tedros, you’ve been talking about preparedness as being the main thing, and I want to really hit hard on that point. A couple of very quick questions, that are all similar. They’re all together. How much does the Covid test cost? How much is that going to cost countries? Second of all, how concerned are you that masks may be in shortage, particularly in Europe? Then third of all, President Trump said that people should be treating this like the flu virus in some ways, in terms of the way they behave. Is that overly simple? And then, Mike, you mentioned case definition changes. You’ve got the cameras rolling now. Can you tell us what those case definition changes are going to be? Thank you.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (02:04)
So, for our next press conference, there’s no questions for you.
Dr. Tedros: (02:10)
No. By the way, it’s okay to give him a chance. He’s-
Dr. Michael Ryan: (02:14)
He’s the cameraman as well, you know?
Dr. Tedros: (02:15)
He is [crosstalk 00:02:15].
Dr. Michael Ryan: (02:20)
The Covid test costs… There’s a different range of prices. There are different manufacturers. But the test that we have sourced costs less than $5 each. But there’s a wide range of testing platforms available, so I won’t go into what others cost. There is a shortage of supply of masks, but let’s separate the issue of the surgical masks that people want to wear in the street, from what our N95 or FFP2 or three respirator masks, which are needed within clinical care environments. We’ve been trying to protect those supplies. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. The Director General has written previously to all the manufacturers. He’s written to all the producing countries. He’s asked for people to show that solidarity. Not just a country level, but at the private sector level. We’ve asked for national strategic stockpiles to allow some of those reserves, in countries with larger economies, who have strategic reserves, to be able to provide PPE and masks to other countries that may not have them.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (03:26)
We have a global supply center in UAE and Dubai, our global logistics center, and we’ve supplied those 85 countries from there. We continue to try and resupply that. But there are significant strains in that system. There’s also the Pandemic Supply Chain Network, which we operate jointly with the World Economic Forum, and we’ve had a large number of private sector organizations… Both manufacturers, distributors, transport companies… working within that network for the last eight weeks, on regular calls, trying to… We’ve also done a detailed maquette analysis, and we’ve looked at where the pressure points are in the system, particularly for respirators. Respirator masks, or the higher level masks. We also, within the UN system, as part of the UN Crisis Management Team, have established a UN supply chain coordination cell between WHO, UNICEF, and the World Food Program.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (04:23)
With regard to the case definitions, let’s let them come out. I mean, we could be here for two hours as I explain to you the nuances of case definitions. I’m not sure the public might be too interested in the detail of that, but we can take it offline.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (04:44)
I’ll leave the chief to answer that.
Dr. Tedros: (04:49)
By the way, on that, if I am asked to advise the communities to prevent this virus, I would give them the same advice as what you give to flu. Wash your hands with water and soap, and also don’t rub your face. Also, six feet distance or so. I think with that regard, especially absence of vaccines and so on, and people taking care of themselves, it’s the same. If you see it scientifically, you can say it’s not flu. But there are many things that is in common, and you can prevent it using the basic things we use to prevent flu. So, the president is right to say that.
Speaker 2: (05:41)
Thank you very much. Miss Ali?
Miss Ali: (05:45)
Thank you for taking my question. [inaudible 00:05:46] Agency. My question is actually a development from the previous one concerning the masks. I know that the mask could help prevent transmission from coughing and sneezing, and people all around China are called on to wear masks, from the premiere of the outbreak. But as this virus developed in Europe, it seems people still contesting that only those who are sick need to wear a mask. So, what is the common suggestion from WHO, concerning the stigmatization of wearing masks? Thank you.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (06:21)
I can answer that question. So, you’re right. There are a lot of people out there that have questions about the use of masks, particularly in the community. We’re talking about medical masks here, so not the N95 masks. The WHO guidance is that we recommend people to wear masks if they themselves are sick, if they themselves have respiratory signs and symptoms. The reason for that is for them to prevent the transmission to someone else, not to protect themselves from getting infected. So, it can be confusing, but we try to make it very clear that you use a mask when you yourself are sick, and that we’re talking about a surgical mask.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (06:58)
Now, what’s also important is how you wear that mask. We have some very good videos that are online, that will show you how to actually put it on and take it off, and how you dispose of it properly so that you don’t actually increase your risk of infection. I had to wear a mask for a few weeks in China, and I actually touched my face a lot more than I would have, had I not had a mask on. I was following national guidance for when I was in China. So, you just have to make sure that you put it on properly, you take it off properly. It’s very important that if we have shortages of masks, that we use them for the front line workers, and that we prioritize the use of those masks for the people who really need it in hospital, but also for those who are taking care of people at home.
[inaudible 00:07:41] follow up?
Speaker 7: (07:42)
Speaker 2: (07:45)
Miss Ali: (07:45)
But some experts say that people, in their incubation periods, they can be infectious. So, people are worried that I might be affected, when this one does not know he has already been affected. So, what’s the risk now? Thank you.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (08:02)
Again, we need to be careful here. The data from China and other places does not suggest that asymptomatic people are the driving force behind this epidemic, right? And I think this is becoming sort of a myth in this. It’s not to suggest that scientifically, someone cannot be infectious before they’re sick. That could happen. But the vast majority of transmission in this epidemic is occurring from symptomatic individuals to other individuals. It’s important to get that. None of the data from the extensive studies from China have shown that asymptomatic individuals have been driving this epidemic, so that’s important to reassure people. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it’s not the major factor in this epidemic.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (08:43)
Second thing is, I think Maria spoke about hands to face. I’ve been looking around the room here. I can’t tell you the number of you who’ve put your hands to your face in the last 20 minutes or half an hour. Exactly. So, I think we need to be… Also, we don’t want to tell people what not to do. People take action to protect their health, and we’re not going to criticize them for trying to protect their health. What we try to do is tell people how to do it properly, and then what else you need to do. And if I have to make a choice, I will keep my hands clean. I will use hand sanitizer. I’ll wash my hands with soap and water. I will cough into my sleeve. I will ensure that when I touch surfaces, that I wash my hands after. They are the actions that will prevent the transmission of disease, as well. So, WHO doesn’t want to tell people what not to do. We want to tell people what to do. And we have lots of guidance out there on what to do, so let’s focus on that.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (09:37)
There’s also a cultural dimension here. Historically, populations and communities in Asia have used masks for pollution purposes, in the cities and others. So, it’s become a cultural norm as well, so we have to take that into account. What’s acceptable or not, in a cultural context. So, that’s’ why we’re very sensitive about saying no to people. It’s about showing people how to… If you’re going to wear a mask, wear it properly.
Speaker 2: (10:00)
Last 60 seconds for John, and I’m sorry to Bloomberg Relief. We will have another opportunity. I have like five [inaudible 00:10:08]. John, please. Last question.
Speaker 8: (10:14)
Dr. Michael Ryan: (10:14)
No. A little bit further down. Thank you.
Speaker 8: (10:18)
Yes. Good afternoon. John Zarocostas, France 24 [inaudible 00:10:23]. Director General, you’ve mentioned about the need for preparedness. From the WHO perspectives, and the six regional offices that you have, how many member states are prepared at the moment? You’ve got to be [crosstalk 00:10:34] in real time. And secondly, we’re hearing concerns about shortages of conventional drugs because of this crisis, some on the essential drug list of the WHO.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (10:50)
I can take the second part of that question, John. There have been issues on supply chains, particularly for active pharmaceutical ingredients, because many of those are produced in China, and they’re on the critical pathway for producing many essential drugs around the world. But many of those industries are now switching back on again, and we’re beginning to see the pressure of that system beginning to ease. Mary Angela [Simoe 00:11:13] and her team here, who work on essential health technologies, are monitoring that on a daily basis, and ensuring that we’re doing all possible to ensure that those systems switch back on, and efficiently deliver active pharmaceutical ingredients as needed into the system, on that point. Your first point was on-
Speaker 8: (11:30)
The first one was how many member states are prepared? From your regional offices, you’ve got to be monitoring this real time.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (11:39)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I would point you to the analysis that’s’ done on self reporting for IHR, and the capacities. The joint external evaluations, the after action reviews that are done for each country. If you look at it, most countries now have national action plans for public health security. Most of those national action plans have very great detail on the preparedness, in any number of 14 different pillars of public health preparedness. There are existing documents that exist for most countries.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (12:04)
Other countries have specific plans for respiratory disease, or influenza preparedness, usually. When we did our analysis, we looked at risk and vulnerability analysis at the same time. Risk of importation, and also vulnerability to spread once the disease had arrived. We’ve categorized those countries into different groups, and that’s what we’ve been using to prioritize the supply chain, what we’ve been using to prioritize national action planning. I won’t give you those list of countries, but we would consider that there are probably in the region of 30 to 40 countries who really have a high level of risk, and a high level of vulnerability when it comes to this virus, and we’re working very closely with them, but with all countries.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (12:46)
But again, as the Director General said, there are four different scenarios that you have to deal with. Each country then has different level of risk and vulnerability to those four scenarios. So, it’s a complex matrix, but we continue to focus on those countries with the highest level of vulnerability.
Speaker 2: (13:03)
Thank you very much. We will conclude with this, as our guests have to leave. Please be aware that we will send all your file immediately now, and the transcript, as always, will be posted tomorrow. For any additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact media team. Have a nice evening.