1st Oct 2023

WHO: 'countries need to take their boldest actions'

  • The Czech Republic, France and Germany blocked exports on medical supplies and protective equipment - with certain exceptions (Photo: CDC Global)

The director for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe, Hans Henri Kluge, has urged countries in Europe to take crucial action to stop the spread of the virus and lift export bans on masks and other medical supplies to avoid shortages.

"The shortage of medical supplies can be never solved by market dynamics only, it will also require collaborative actions between countries," Kluge warned on Tuesday (17 March).

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"Solidarity within the country and with other countries is essential and it should be stronger," he added during a Facebook live broadcast at WHO's main offices in Copenhagen.

Given the current shortages of anti-virus gear, the Czech Republic, France and Germany blocked exports on medical supplies and protective equipment - with certain exceptions.

Separately, the European Commission launched an accelerated joint procurement procedure with 26 member states to ensure an adequate supply of protective equipment in the EU.

No 'one-size-fits-all'

The WHO Europe reaffirmed that there was not a "one-size-fits-all" approach to managing the coronavirus outbreak, as European countries are facing very different scenarios.

However, the aim of all countries should be the same.

"Every country, with no exceptions, need to take their boldest actions to stop or slow down the virus threat. Boldest action should include community action: thinking that this does not concern me is not an option," Klug said.

Although there is only a certain degree of alignment of policies in Europe, there is a set of common principles.

These are containing the virus with early diagnosis and traceability, making stronger the national healthcare system and mobilising the communities to take measures such as social distancing and regular hand washing, according to WHO.

"It is normal that at the beginning countries are responding to the outbreak on a more individual way, but the unification [of measures] will come naturally as we move forward," Kluge said.

"There is, quite simply, a new reality," warned Kluge who believe that "everyone in the society has a role to play".

Universal health coverage

The coronavirus outbreak has brought to the forefront the importance of the so-called universal health coverage - one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations (UN) for 2030.

Europe is the birthplace of universal health coverage, which mean that everyone in the population, independently of age race, origin, or economic status, needs to have the right to equal access to healthcare without being pushed into the poverty.

As coronavirus tests' price stands over €25, many countries might be facing problems to afford mass testing.

However, WHO on Monday called for testing every suspected case of the new coronavirus.

"We need to be very innovative and ensure that those who need it, can have it," said the coordinator of the health emergencies program at WHO Europe, Dorit Nitzan, who believes that "prioritisation is key".

While the coronavirus has spread to 152 countries worldwide, some have "really succeeded to contain and push back" the spread, Kluge said, referring to China, South Korea and Singapore.

As of 17 March, more than 189,758 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported worldwide, as well as 7,518 deaths and 80,874 recoveries.

Over 27,000 cases of coronavirus have been registered in Italy, the most-affected country in Europe - followed by Spain (11,409), Germany (8,084) and France (6,633).


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