Jun 15, 2020
World Health Organization (WHO) Coronavirus Press Conference June 15
The World Health Organization (WHO) held a coronavirus press briefing on June 15. Read their full update briefing on the latest COVID-19 news here.
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Hello, everyone. We’re just waiting for technical issue to be sorted out, and we will start any moment. Now everything’s okay, so hi to everyone watching us on a number of WHO social media platforms, and welcome to all journalists who are on Zoom with us here for this regular COVID-19 press conference. We do apologize for this delay. My name is Tarik, today is June 15, and with us, we have Dr. Tedros, WHO Director-General. We have Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove and Dr. Mike Ryan, as we always do. We also have tonight with us Dr. Wenqing Zhang, who is our Director of Global Influenza Programme. As we had in previous weeks, we would like to thank our interpreters who are providing simultaneous interpretation to six UN languages, plus Portuguese and Hindi. And journalists who are on Zoom can follow this press conference in those languages, and can also ask questions in six UN languages and Portuguese when we come to that. Now I will give the floor to Dr. Tedros for his opening remarks.
Dr. Tedros: (13:21)
Thank you. Thank you, Tarik. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. Globally, more than 7.8 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, and more than 430 deaths. It took more than two months for the first 100,000 cases to be reported. For the past two weeks, more than 100,000 new cases have been reported almost every single day. Almost 75% of recent cases come from 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia. However, we also see increasing numbers of cases in Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Even in countries that have demonstrated the ability to suppress transmission, countries must stay alert to the possibility of resurgence. Last week, China reported a new cluster of cases in Beijing after more than 50 days without a case in that city. More than a hundred cases have now been confirmed. The origin and extent of the outbreak are being investigated.
Dr. Tedros: (14:46)
Despite the ongoing global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot lose sight of other significant public health issues, including influenza. Influenza affects every country every year and takes its own deadly toll. As we enter the Southern hemisphere influenza season and begin planning for the Northern hemisphere season, we must ensure that influenza remains a top priority, because circulation of COVID-19 and influenza can worsen the impact on healthcare systems that are already overwhelmed. More than 500 million people are vaccinated against flu every year, based on recommendations from WHO on the composition of flu vaccines. These recommendations are based on data and virus samples collected and analyzed by WHO’s Global Influence Surveillance and Response System, or GISRS. The GISRS system has been functioning since 1952, and I would like to thank the more than 125 countries that-
Dr. Tedros: (16:03)
… I would like to thank the more than 125 countries that participate in it. Over the past eight years, significant strengthening of the system has been made possible through the pandemic influenza preparedness framework, and I would also like to thank the public and private sector partners that participate in this global system. The infrastructure, people, skills and experience built up through [inaudible 00:16:30] WHO collaborating centers and national influenza centers have been the foundation for detecting COVID-19. However, this well-established system is now seeing significant challenge. Influenza surveillance has either been suspended or is declining in many countries, and there has been a sharp decline in sharing of influenza information and viruses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared with the last three years, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of specimens tested for influenza globally. We have also seen a 62% decrease in the number of virus shipments to WHO collaborating centers and a 94% decrease in the number of influenza viruses with genetic sequence data uploaded to the [inaudible 00:17:29] aid database.
Dr. Tedros: (17:31)
These decreases are due to a combination of issues, including the repurposing of staff and supplies, overburdened laboratories, and transport restrictions. These disruptions may have short and long-term effects such as loss of capacities to detect and report new influenza viruses with pandemic potential. As many of you know, twice a year WHO convenes a group of experts who together analyze the circulating flu strains. Based on their analysis, they select the viruses that should be targeted by flu vaccines for the upcoming season in each hemisphere. To know which viruses are circulating, WHO relies on information from countries reported through [inaudible 00:02:29], which we use to make recommendations for the composition of influenza vaccines. This will help us to prevent more severe cases of flu and more deaths.
Dr. Tedros: (18:43)
WHO has published guidance on how to integrate surveillance for COVID-19 into routine influenza surveillance as an efficient way to track both of these important respiratory viruses. This is not only cost effective, it’s also essential for protecting the world against the next flu season. The Southern hemisphere flu season is already underway. There is no time to lose.
Dr. Tedros: (19:15)
I thank you.
Many thanks Dr. Tedros. As I have announced, we have Dr. [Benchin Zang 00:03:22] with us who is director of global influenza program, if you would like to get to know more about this important topic as Dr. Tedros has just mentioned.
We will now open the floor to questions. I will ask journalists to be short and concise and have only one question per person. We will start with Brazil. We have a Guillermo [Branchini 00:19:44] from [foreign language 00:03:47] online. Guillermo, if you can just unmute yourself.
Guillermo Branchini: (19:55)
Hello? Hello? Hello?
Yes, we can hear you.
Guillermo Branchini: (19:59)
Oh, okay. My question is about Brazil. I want to know if Brazil can be considered the new epicenter of the COVID-19?
Thank you, Guillermo, if I understand, well, the question was, should we consider Brazil as a new epicenter of COVID-19?
Dr. Michael Ryan: (20:25)
I think we saw a number of weeks ago that Central and South America, the Americas in general, were very much the hotspot regionally for numbers around the world. But as we’ve seen also in the last number of days and weeks, other areas of the world have started to have a large increases in cases, but Brazil cannot be singled out in the Americas. There are many other countries in the Americas like Mexico, Chile, and others. Who’ve had significant increases in cases and continue to have an upswing in epidemic. I would characterize the situation in Central and South America as being of concern. Currently our America’s regional office, the Pan-American Health Organization is providing day-to-day support to a number of countries in Central and South America, both in terms of their public health measures and supporting the health systems in those countries. No, I would not characterize Brazil, per se, as the only epicenter of disease in the world. There are many countries that are currently struggling with increasing numbers and dealing with trying to control those numbers of diseases with various measures.
Many thanks, Dr. Ryan.
Next question comes from [Fenix 00:00:21:46]. We have [Yi Lu 00:05:48] online from Chinese TV, Fenix. Can you hear us?
Yi Lu: (21:56)
Yes. [crosstalk 00:22:01].
Yi Lu: (22:00)
Hello, everyone. Can you hear me?
Yes. Very well.
Yi Lu: (22:03)
Okay. I’m Yi Lu from Hong Kong, Fenix Weekly. My question is about the outbreak in Beijing. We wonder is it possible for the novel coronavirus to spread across the country but adhering to the surface of important goods, like [inaudible 00:22:22] or something else? If yes, do you think it’s necessary to add the coronavirus testing for import and export goods? Thank you.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (22:34)
Yeah, I can start. Obviously to look at the issue of food or food packaging, but we also need to recognize that the common things are common. We know this disease is primarily spread from human to human by the respiratory route and the contamination by humans of that environment. We’ve also seen that this disease can breach the animal/ human species barrier.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (23:03)
Clearly, there’ve been much research done on the potential for coronaviruses and other viruses to survive on many surfaces, including packaging. In this particular case, I think obviously it’s just one of the hypothesis and this hypothesis continues and needs to be further tested. But I would be reticent to be in a position where all packaging and other things would need to be systematically tested. I think we need to look at what has happened in this case. I don’t believe it’s the primary hypothesis, but it needs to be explored. But adequate disinfection of material and foodstuffs is done and is carried out.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (23:47)
But again, we need to understand what has actually happened in this circumstance before issuing major policies on this. But all governments are in a position, all governments manage their food chains, all governments manage their food supplies and are in a position based on the information that they have to issue whatever testing requirements are needed for the safety of citizens. We will work very closely with authorities in China to understand what exactly the risks are here. We’ll issue any guidance internationally accordingly.
Thank you, Dr. Ryan, and thanks Yi Lu for this question from Fenix, Hong Kong. Now we will go to Bloomberg and we have Corinne online. Corrine?
Hi, can you hear me?
Okay, great. I wanted to ask about the risks of air travel. As travel restrictions lift, how do you assess the risks of air travel? Is it important whether a plane is full? How can people protect themselves?
Dr. Michael Ryan: (24:59)
I’ll begin and, Maria, you can continue. We have been working extensively with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the IATA, the International Air Travel Association, on advising them on how risks can be managed in these circumstances. As you’ve seen, we’ve worked also with the sporting movements around the world and mass-gathering movements around how risks can be reduced in that. In this regard, we’ve been working closely to give advice on how risks can be managed in a air transport environment, and that both covers airports and the air transport system itself. We will be in the next couple of days issuing more detailed considerations and public health advice for international travelers. I will defer to that for more specific advice, but like in any other situation, for a traveler on any form of transport, I suppose the key issue is what the traveler themselves can do to protect their own health, and then what the authorities can do with airports or on aircraft to reduce the risk of transmission.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (26:15)
Again, let us remember, and we’ve seen, there is no zero risk in any environment. What we need to do is identify the risks that may be involved or the increased risks that may be associated with travel. We need to try and reduce those risks to the absolute minimum and be able to mitigate any negative impacts. It is difficult. For example, it is quite reasonably straightforward within an airport environment, although logistically difficult to create physical distance, to create the opportunity for personal hygiene, and it should be no more of a risk for any individual to go through an airport in a properly physically distant and hygienic manner than it is through any building or workplace or environment, as long as that’s managed properly.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (27:04)
The aircraft itself represents a particular environment where people are pushed together in a much closer environment. I think you’ll see that airlines and the air travel associations are putting together all kinds of guidance and extra hygiene and extra cleaning and boarding procedures and all kinds of different procedures that are aimed at reducing risk, including the wearing of masks while on the airplane. Again, all of those are aimed at giving the passenger a safe travel experience.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (27:35)
Then obviously the ability, should something go wrong and someone be infected or become sick subsequently, it is absolutely important that we’re able to track anyone who’s been on that airplane. That’s probably something that’s not taken us seriously. We need to make the travel experience as safe as possible, but we must recognize that it can’t be made 100% safe. Therefore, we need the capacity to trace people after they may have been exposed so we can follow up and break any chain of transmission. The ability to retain good travel records and the ability for public health authorities to be immediately informed so they can track and trace any problems subsequently is really important.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (28:20)
This is a complex set of different processes and procedures. We will be issuing further guidance on this. As I say, I can assure you, we are working very closely with the International Civil Aviation and the air transport associations to ensure that we give them the best possible risk management to place in this space.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (28:40)
Many thanks, Dr. Ryan.
Now we will go to South Africa broadcaster. We have Sophie [Moquana 00:28:51]. Sophie, can you hear us?
Sophie Moquana: (28:55)
Yes, I can hear you, sir. I just want to find out, recently we’ve seen in many countries where there has been protests. Much as racism is a pandemic in itself, you also have this COVID-19 pandemic. What is the WHO position? Are you perhaps having an advice to the organizer so that after all the protests they don’t now have to deal with issues of infection in their respective countries where we have seen a wave of protest?
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (29:41)
Thank you very much for this important question. Yeah, we have issued some guidance around the planning of mass gatherings, whether these are planned events or whether these are spontaneous events, to help organizers hold these in a way that can minimize the risk for COVID-19 and for other infectious diseases. Some of the considerations that need to be taken into account to help those organizers, whether they’re planned or spontaneous, takes into account what is the disease, the virus circulation in that area, is it an area of active transmission, is there a way in which people can remain physically distance, they can be at least a meter apart, should they be wearing a fabric mask when they’re out, and is there a way to quickly be able to detect cases and monitor those cases if someone is sick?
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (30:36)
It is important that anyone attending an event, whatever event that may be, that if they’re unwell, they stay home, and if they are in a place where they cannot maintain a physical distancing, to wear a fabric mask to prevent the potential transmission. But any opportunity where people are in crowded places and the virus is present and the appropriate measures are not put in place, the virus can take hold, the virus can transmit. It’s important that we put in measures so that these gatherings can take place safely.
Thank you very much for this. Next question goes to Kyoto, the news agency. We have [Tomo 00:31:19] online. Hello, Tomo? Can you unmute yourself, please? Let’s try one more time with the Kyoto. Do we have Tomo online? If not, we may come back to Tomo from Kyoto.
Now we’ll go to a BMJ and we have Jonathan Owen. Jonathan? Please unmute yourself, Jonathan.
Jonathan Owen: (31:56)
Jonathan Owen: (31:59)
With the situation in Beijing, just wondered if you could tell me-
Situation in Beijing. Just wondered if you could tell me, are there any plans to mobilize any medical teams to assist? Could we be seeing the start of a second wave there in Beijing? Is that a concern?
Dr. Michael Ryan: (32:19)
I think as we’ve seen in many countries, the emergence of new clusters, especially when the origin of the cluster or the driver of the cluster is not recognized, is always a concern. But what we do like to see is an immediate response to that and the comprehensive set of measures. In other parts of the world where we’ve seen that approach of really investigating thoroughly, testing, isolating, and quarantining cases and or quarantining contacts, it has generally led to a containment of the clusters. Be there around religious communities, around markets, or around other migrant dormitories and many other environments in which this has occurred.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (33:02)
However, Beijing is a large city in a very dynamic and connected city so there’s always a concern. I think you can see that level of concern in the response of the Chinese authorities. We are tracking that very closely. Our country office … And remember, we do have a team in China that’s actually based in Beijing. Our country office there is led by our country representative Dr. [Golden Galia 00:00:33:27]. We have a number of epidemiologists permanently embedded in our Chinese office and work on a day to day basis with colleagues at the National Health Commission at the China CDC and CDCs all around China.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (33:43)
We have offered further assistance and further support as it is needed. We may be supplementing our country office team with more expertise in the coming days as the investigation develops and are working directly with colleagues, again at China CDC, on some of the more important findings like genetic sequencing and other investigations that will be important to understand the origin and spread of this disease area. Maria?
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (34:16)
Yeah. I just want to highlight not particularly on Beijing, but in all countries that have had some success at suppressing transmission, have been able to reduce transmission to a low level, or eliminate it. All countries need to remain at the ready. It’s very important that countries have the systems in place to be able to quickly identify any suspect cases and test those cases and follow the same pattern of events that need to happen. Make sure to tests, isolate trace contacts, quarantine contacts, so that any resurgence can be picked up quickly and can be stamped out.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (34:53)
I think that’s an important message. It relates to even the first question about where is the epicenter? In some respects, all countries need to be prepared to be that epicenter and to prevent the possibility of becoming the next place where cases can resurge. We know from the data from our Sierra prevalence studies that a large proportion of the population remains susceptible. All countries need to be on alert.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (35:16)
Beijing has activated their systems. We’ve seen similar situations with Singapore, with Japan, with Germany, with many countries. It’s just important that everybody remains at the ready to be able to quickly detect and care for those patients and do contact tracing appropriately.
Thank you. We will go now to Simon [Ataba 00:35:42] from Today News Africa in Washington. Simon?
Simon Ataba: (35:48)
Yeah. Thank you for taking my question. My name is Simon Ataba from Today news Africa. I know that Dr. Tedros and some senior UN officials signed a statement at a weekend condemning racism. I just wanted to know what WHO is doing to fight racism within the WHO and also when it comes to testing and everything related to COVID-19. Thank you.
Dr. Tedros: (36:33)
Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s through, as you have said, I have joined my colleagues, UN senior officials, who are from our continent to express our voice, to condemn racism, and any form of discrimination. As you know, racism and any form of discrimination should not be tolerated. It’s through addressing these two problems actually, we can bring peace and stability to the world. That’s why we raised our voices, our voices for quality. All human beings are treated equally.
Dr. Tedros: (37:40)
Then coming to what we do in WHO, it’s the same. I think what we do in WHO cannot be different from what can be done elsewhere. Racism and any form of discrimination should be condemned and should be fault. We need our position. I think last week during our presser, I have already indicated or clarified WHO’s position. WHO’s position is for equality and we will do everything to make sure that this happens in WHO and everywhere as members of the global community. Thank you.
Thank you, Dr. Tedros. We’ll go now to AFP. We have [Anyas Pedrero 00:06:35] Anyas, if you unmute yourself, we will be able to hear you.
Anyas Pedrero: (38:44)
Yes. Do you hear me?
Anyas Pedrero: (38:46)
Yes. Hi, thank you for taking the questions. Even if I think it was partly answered, but I wanted to ask you what level of concern you are. You have with the first cluster of cases in Beijing? When you talked about the more than 300 cases, did you include any deaths inside? And about the investigation, is it done by the Chinese authorities or someone else? Thank you.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (39:17)
Maria would speak … I don’t believe any debts have been reported in association with the disease. As is normal, sovereign countries investigate and respond to epidemics on their territory and request assistance from WHO as needed. We are always, in every case, when there’s an epidemic or a new epidemic in countries, we always offer assistance, technical, operational, and logistic as needed.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (39:47)
In this particular case and I think in the case of this response, I think Chinese authorities, as many countries around the world, again like Korea, like Japan, like so many other countries, have learned many lessons in the last six months in how to handle COVID all over the world. I think have built significant capacity in doing that. However, we will continue to monitor the situation, continue to offer that assistance, and continue to make information available to the international community as we do for all of the countries. Maria?
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (40:25)
Yeah. Case numbers, it was over a hundred cases that we reported as part of the cluster. But just to say about are we concerned? We’re always concerned for clusters in every country, in any country, wherever we hear of a clustering of cases. First and foremost, should say every single case of COVID-19 is significant. Every single case needs to be followed up and cared for appropriately.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (40:48)
But clusters are a special condition because in any country, we need to understand why is there the clustering? What brought these cases together? Is it related to an expat dormitory? Is it related to a health care facility? Is it related to a long-term care facility or a school or whatever it may be? Because that will help us understand it and bring it under control. Any cluster raises our concern, as it does in all countries.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (41:13)
As Mike has said, we’ve seen officials take this seriously and do a proper investigation, as we are seeing in other countries that are seeing these cases. We are witnessing many countries apply the fundamentals of public health of outbreak investigation, which public health professionals are trained to do. To find cases, to understand the extent of infection by doing active testing, and to follow up on all of the cases and contacts and care for anyone that is ill.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (41:41)
My understanding is that there are no deaths associated so far, but of course as Mike has said, we will monitor the situation as we do in all countries.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (41:50)
To further that, I think obviously these events are threatened in their own right and no one likes to see them, but they do offer opportunities to understand disease transmission and to understand the circumstances and the context and the behaviors in which disease transmits more readily. I would point you to … We’ve had some excellent articles come out in the last couple of days.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (42:15)
One in the MMWR from the CDC in Atlanta, from [Frews 00:42:19] and et al, Japanese colleagues, who’ve done extensive cluster based investigations looking for specific risk factors and specific situations and behaviors and contexts in which transmission has been generated in clusters. That’s what we need to know. We need to have our scientists around the world investigating clusters, seeing what’s driving infection. We have a lot of speculation around what’s driving infection, what’s causing this, what’s causing that. That’s important. It’s important for us to hypothesize. It’s important for us to make models about what might be happening, but the answers lie in careful, careful, systematic, exhaustive investigation of disease clusters to really look at what is happening in these situations and then what is causing amplification of disease in the human context.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (43:06)
If we get that, we will build up a much better picture of the public health advice we need to give our communities on what behaviors to avoid them, what places to avoid them, what circumstances to avoid, and for us in public health to have better policies to guide governments. I do think this is an important issue in as much as it demonstrates that rapid response to contain clusters and systematic, thorough investigation of those clusters is both a public health act to stop the disease, but an act of public health discovery to understand how this disease transmits in these circumstances.
Next question comes from [Pienne 00:43:45] who works with the National Public Radio. Pienne?
Hi, thanks for taking my question. I was wondering if you could clarify by remarks earlier about flu. It sounded like Tedros the same that COVID is making it harder to plan for flu because surveillance systems are down. But shouldn’t we be doing a better job looking for flu because we’re screening so many people for COVID, and also a better job combating it because we’re taking the precautious against COVID, which spreads like the flu?
Dr. Michael Ryan: (44:15)
Just maybe I can begin and then Tedros come in. I think what we need to do here is first of all and foremost, recognize the contribution that our influenza surveillance colleagues have made all over the world. I think we got ahead very much in doing surveillance and testing for COVID-19, because we had such a strong infrastructure around the world for flu surveillance.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (44:41)
But what has happened, and this is quite understandable, as countries have fought COVID-19, a lot of the resources that are within the flu network have been not appropriated, but entirely appropriately pushed into COVID surveillance. We now need to find that balance to ensure that we’re also able to track influenza properly during that same period. We’re now entering a period in the world where we have to be able to track both COVID-19 and influenza, both are dangerous pathogens.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (45:10)
We’re lucky in influenza, we have vaccines that can seriously reduce infection and reduce severity of disease. In order to be able to use those tools most effectively, we need the right vaccines. In order to have the right vaccines, we need the surveillance data to tell us what the circulating strains are. The work that Wenquing here and will speak and her team do with our collaborating centers all around the world is a vital more than a 50 year program that has done just that. We need to continue to invest in that program. Now we need to be able to use those surveillance programs, to do both surveillance of COVID and influenza. This is exceptionally important for the coming months, especially in the Southern hemisphere. Wenquing?
Dr. Wenquing Zhang: (45:57)
Yeah. I just want to add to what Mike just said. Inferences surveillance has been conducting well for more than a half a century, with contribution from more than 100 countries in the world. This is really a very solid and highly functional foundation work globally to monitor influenza, influenza outbreaks, and giving a recommendation twice a year about the composition, certain need to go into the seasonal vaccines.
Dr. Wenquing Zhang: (46:26)
Now, as Dr. Tedros director general mentioned is that during is a pandemic or response to surveillance, in some countries where has been disrupted, what decreased, et cetera. When we are entering into the Southern hemisphere influenza season, and also it is a time to prepare for Northern hemisphere season, where it is important where countries what first need to be reminded is that to work inferences threat is existing. Where there always were competing disease or threats, but influenza is always there. There’s seasonal influenza and also there’s influenza or pandemic potential.
Dr. Wenquing Zhang: (47:10)
Second is that where countries really need to back to normal routine influenza surveillance was their system were in place in the country. Countries really need to optimize the use of their existing system or used the system for the COVID surveillance. As many countries already started also, were activate was influenza surveillance as well. Third, what is really to prepare for the influenza seasonal vaccination program. We know that for influenza, we have safe and effective vaccines available and vaccine is a manner where primary intervention for reduce some of the deaths and the disease or influenza infection.
Many thanks, Dr. Zhang.
Many thanks, Dr. Zhang. We will try to go back to our friends from Kyodo, a news agency from Japan. [Tomo 00:00:48:11], are we more lucky now?
Yes. Yes. Tariq, can you hear me?
Thanks so much for taking my question. Dr. Tedros, a few weeks ago, you mentioned about relationship with United States is not only about money but the cooperation between WHO and the United States. But is United States still a member of WHO at this point since we are about to have the deadline that President Trump has mentioned, the 30-day deadline this week? Thank you so much.
Dr. Tedros: (48:48)
Thank you. Yes, the United States is still a member state of the World Health Organization. Thank you.
Thank you very much. We will now go to Brazil again. We have [Lara Pinera 00:01:06] from Global. Lara?
Hello. Good afternoon. Thank you for taking my question. I would like to know how useful is temperature screening in public places to look for COVID patients since some studies have already shown that fever is not always a symptom of the infection? Thank you.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: (49:31)
So thank you for your question, your question. I will begin. You’ve almost answered your question with your question in the sense that many people ultimately will have a fever, but not all people present with a fever. There are many ways in which people can be screened. Temperature screening is one, but there are a package of measures that need to be put in place to identify cases. And so as we have pointed out, it is very important that there’s systems in place that cases who are suspect cases, if you’re feeling unwell, you stay home and you contact your medical provider. Suspect cases are tested, so we know if they are indeed a case or not. And I will again highlight influenza here. If you have respiratory symptoms or you’re feeling unwell, not only looking for COVID-19, but also looking for influenza. Especially in the Southern hemisphere as the influenza season is taking off, it’s important to know what people are infected with and to follow all of the other measures that are in place. So as you mentioned, not all people will develop fever, and not all people will present with fever. Thanks.
Thank you, Dr. Van Kerkhove. We will now go to Emma Fars from Writers. Emma?
Hello. Good afternoon. Thanks for taking my question. I was wondering, given the comments from the Chinese CDC and state media this afternoon saying that they have the genome sequencing for the virus that emerged in Beijing, I was wondering, what is your message to them given that they’ve said that they have this information but they haven’t shared it with the world yet? Thank you.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (51:16)
We fully expect that our colleagues in China will we’ll share that information. And it is very important, and they have done so in the past as have many countries, particularly in sharing the genetic sequence. The finding that this may represent a strain more commonly transmitting in Europe is important, and it may reflect human-to-human transmission more than any other hypotheses. But that remains to be seen. But we’ve been in close contact with our colleagues, both through our regional and country offices but also directly. And we fully expect that China will in the normal course publicly put those sequences as they have done in the past on publicly available websites.
Dr. Tedros: (52:05)
I would just like to add that this is a plea for all countries to share full genome sequences. We have more than 40,000 sequences that are available, and that’s wonderful. But there’s been more than seven million cases worldwide. And it’s important that we continue to look at the sequences that are circulating globally to make sure that we understand these viruses. And so that the people, the networks of labs and neurologists, who are looking at these sequence can monitor them. So it is important that, not only in China in this situation, but also all countries that continue to share the full genome sequences on publicly available websites.
Thank you. We have time for a couple of more questions. So let’s try to go to China Daily. We have Chan online. Chan?
Hi. Yeah. My question is also related [inaudible 00:52:58] based here in Brussels. So the EU border is opening today, but country, like Germany, France, still report 300 or 400 cases every day. And in the U S you have 18, 20 States have a spike, 1,000 cases or more a day. So why make Beijing’s 100 cases particular deserve so much attention? Is Beijing overreacting, or is it acting properly? Thank you.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (53:35)
Yeah, I think it’s important to note that every country is different. And certainly in China when you spent over 50 days without having any significant local transmission, a cluster like this is a concern. And it needs to be investigated and controlled, and that’s exactly what the Chinese authorities are doing. So in that sense, it is big news. But in the great scheme of things around the number of cases per day around the world, it’s not. But it is significant event. We’ll track that like we’ve tracked other significant clusters. Similarly, we’ve been concerned about clusters that have emerged in Korea or in Japan or in Singapore, and we engage very closely with those authorities to understand how they’re investigating them. That doesn’t mean we think that the authorities are going to lose control of the situation. It’s that we want to understand what the country is doing and, more importantly, what the country is learning about the origin and transmission.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (54:27)
A separate situation is countries, for example, as you’ve mentioned in Europe who are currently exiting some lockdowns and opening up their borders. They’re engaged in a careful process of lifting restrictions that is balanced with the risk of disease against the promotion of lives and livelihoods and pulling their economies back on track. And in doing that, they’re measuring their lifting of restrictions with the decreases in incidence of disease. But no countries have reached that zero incidents, and that’s a very difficult objective to reach before you exit lockdowns. In fact, that’s not what was envisaged and the planning process for transitioning from lockdowns. But you need to have a sustained control over the virus and be able to get to a position where you can then safely exit lockdown while maintaining the measures, like surveillance and other measures, in order to sustain control of the virus. So careful opening of countries and opening up their borders with neighboring countries is something that can be done but, again, must be done in a measured, planned, step-wise fashion with always putting in place the public health and other measures needed to be able to make up for the restrictions of movement and the restrictions of lockdowns. Thank you.
Thank you. Maybe we can go to the last question for today. We have our friend [Kei Kofresmit 00:07:58] from Science. Kei?
Hi, Tariq. Thank you very much for taking the question. And I just wanted to ask about the status of the Solidarity Trial and, in particular, the FDA has revoked its emergency use for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, and data just seems to be going in the same direction. I’m just curious whether you have any news from the Solidarity Trial or when you expect to have news.
Dr. Michael Ryan: (56:24)
Kei, we’ll get back to you in that. I believe the executive group of the Solidarity Trial is meeting this week. And obviously, in the light of other data, we’ll be obviously looking at the utility of continuing with certain arms of the trial based on the likelihood of finding a positive outcome. So we’ll come back to you on Wednesday with an update on those deliberations and where we go from here.
Thank you very much, Dr. Ryan. We will conclude this press briefing for today. We will see you again on Wednesday. And the audio file will be sent to you shortly, and the transcript will be available tomorrow. We will also be sending you notices of press conferences that are done by our regional offices as well as news from different places around the world where WHO has its activities on COVID-19. I wish you a very nice evening.
Dr. Tedros: (57:24)
And as usual, thank you, Tarik. And thank you to all who have joined today, and look forward to seeing you on Wednesday. Thank you.