NEWS

Apr. 1, 2020

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 1 April 2020
1 April 2020
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

As we enter the fourth month since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am deeply concerned about the rapid escalation and global spread of infection.

Over the past 5 weeks, we have witnessed a near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country, territory and area.

The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week. In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases, and 50 thousand deaths.

While relatively lower numbers of confirmed cases have been reported from Africa, and from Central and South America, we realize that COVID-19 could have serious social, economic and political consequences for these regions.

It is critical that we ensure these countries are well equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat cases, and identify contacts – I am encouraged to see that this is occurring in many countries, despite limited resources.

Many countries are asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement, which can help to limit transmission of the virus, but can have unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable people.

I have called on governments to put in place social welfare measures to ensure vulnerable people have food and other life essentials during this crisis.

In India, for example, Prime Minister Modi has announced a $24 billion package, including free food rations for 800 million disadvantaged people, cash transfers to 204 million poor women and free cooking gas for 80 million households for the next 3 months.

Many developing countries will struggle to implement social welfare programs of this nature. For those countries, debt relief is essential to enable them to take care of their people and avoid economic collapse.

This is a call from WHO, the World Bank and the IMF – debt relief for developing countries.

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Three months ago, we knew almost nothing about this virus.

Collectively, we have learned an enormous amount.

And every day, we learn more.

WHO is committed to serving all people everywhere with the best evidence to protect their health.

WHO develops guidance based on the totality of evidence collected from around the world.

Every day, our staff talk to thousands of experts around the world to collect and distil that evidence and experience.

We constantly review and update our guidance as we learn more, and we are working to adapt it for specific contexts.

For example, we recommend handwashing and physical distancing, but we also recognize this can be a practical challenge for those who lack access to clean water, or who live in cramped conditions.

Together with Unicef and the International Federation of the Red Cross, we’ve published new guidance for improving access to handwashing.

The guidance recommends that countries set up handwashing stations at the entrance to public buildings, offices, bus stops and train stations.

We’re also working hard with researchers all over the world to generate the evidence about which medicines are most effective for treating COVID-19.

There has been an extraordinary response to our call for countries to join the Solidarity trial, which is comparing four drugs and drug combinations.

So far, 74 countries have either joined the trial or are in the process of joining.

As of this morning, more than 200 patients had been randomly assigned to one of the study arms.

Each new patient who joins the trial gets us one step closer to knowing which drugs work.

We’re also continuing to study the evidence about the use of masks.

WHO’s priority is that frontline health workers are able to access essential personal protective equipment, including medical masks and respirators.

That’s why we are continuing to work with governments and manufacturers to step up the production and distribution of personal protective equipment, including masks.

There’s an ongoing debate about the use of masks at the community level.

WHO recommends the use of medical masks for people who are sick and those caring for them.

However, in these circumstances, masks are only effective when combined with other protective measures.

WHO continues to gather all available evidence and continues to evaluate the potential use of masks more broadly to control COVID-19 transmission at the community level.

This is still a very new virus, and we are learning all the time.

As the pandemic evolves, so does the evidence, and so does our advice.

But what doesn’t change is WHO’s commitment to protecting the health of all people, based on the best science, without fear or favour.

I thank you.



Mar. 31, 2020

OHCHR, IOM, UNHCR and WHO joint press release: the rights and health of refugees, migrants and stateless must be protected in COVID-19 response
31 March 2020 Joint News Release
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, we are all vulnerable. The virus has shown that it does not discriminate - but many refugees, those forcibly displaced, the stateless and migrants are at heightened risk.

Three-quarters of the world’s refugees and many migrants are hosted in developing regions where health systems are already overwhelmed and under-capacitated. Many live in overcrowded camps, settlements, makeshift shelters or reception centers, where they lack adequate access to health services, clean water and sanitation.

The situation for refugees and migrants held in formal and informal places of detention, in cramped and unsanitary conditions, is particularly worrying. Considering the lethal consequences a COVID-19 outbreak would have, they should be released without delay. Migrant children and their families and those detained without a sufficient legal basis should be immediately released.

This disease can be controlled only if there is an inclusive approach which protects every individual’s rights to life and health. Migrants and refugees are disproportionately vulnerable to exclusion, stigma and discrimination, particulary when undocumented. To avert a catastrophe, governments must do all they can to protect the rights and the health of everyone. Protecting the rights and the health of all people will in fact help control the spread of the virus.

It is vital that everyone, including all migrants and refugees, are ensured equal access to health services and are effectively included in national responses to COVID-19, including prevention, testing and treatment. Inclusion will help not only to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, but will also serve to protect public health and stem the global spread of COVID-19. While many nations protect and host refugee and migrant populations, they are often not equipped to respond to crises such as Covid-19. To ensure refugees and migrants have adequate access to national health services, States may need additional financial support. This is where the world’s financial institutions can play a leading role in making funds available.

While countries are closing their borders and limiting cross-border movements, there are ways to manage border restrictions in a manner which respects international human rights and refugee protection standards, including the principle of non-refoulement, through quarantine and health checks.

More than ever, as COVID-19 poses a global threat to our collective humanity, our primary focus should be on the preservation of life, regardless of status. This crisis demands a coherent, effective international approach that leaves no-one behind. At this crucial moment we all need to rally around a common objective, fighting this deadly virus. Many refugees, displaced, stateless people and migrants have skills and resources that can also be part of the solution.

We cannot allow fear or intolerance to undermine rights or compromise the effectiveness of responses to the global pandemic. We are all in this together. We can only defeat this virus when each and every one of us is protected.

Mar. 29, 2020

Due to extensive community transmission of COVID -19 in the area, CDC urges residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.  This Domestic Travel Advisory does not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries, including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply.  These employees of critical infrastructure, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security (https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce), have a special responsibility to maintain normal work schedules.  The Governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will have full discretion to implement this Domestic Travel Advisory.

 

Mar. 29, 2020

Photo: Xanthi Morfi/WCC

28 March 2020

Interview with the Archbishop of Albania

by Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of Communication

Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania shares his perspective in this E-interview about the way churches are adapting, both in Albania and worldwide, to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we pray for the researchers trying to find a treatment, churches can also emphasize our duty to stay at home while, at the same time, freeing ourselves from fear and anxiety. We must find ways to assist the sick directly or indirectly, as we prepare for Easter, and open our hearts to the light of hope.

In what ways is Your Beatitude seeing churches adapt to life amid the coronavirus outbreak? In Albania, and worldwide.

Archbishop Anastasios: When we were informed about the spread of the pandemic of COVID-19 in Albania, we addressed our people (on 12 March and 17 March 2020) insisting that we must avoid panic, depression, and despair. We noted that composure, sobriety, and careful concern and constant discipline towards the instructions and health directives of the responsible governments are required of us. We announced that we were canceling all services in our churches, and we advised that the people avoid the traditional embraces, kissing of holy objects in the church, kissing of hands, and any physical contact. Every Sunday as well as on Great Feasts, we celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the chapel of the Synodical Center with closed doors. These services are transmitted on the radio station of the Church as well as online. Similarly, the ecclesiastical Services will continue in the other Dioceses in small chapels with closed doors. We advised those who are more susceptible, the elderly and children, to
remain at home for a period of time. The churches will remain open during the day for personal prayer. Faith and love are the most powerful defensive weapons against the attack of this invisible virus. I know that many other Churches have also addressed their own faithful in similar ways.

In what ways can churches in Albania be a role model for others?

Archbishop Anastasios: We took some initiatives, sharing our ideas with the other religious communities of Albania. But it is too much to say that we are a ‘model’ for anyone. Every Church in the various countries has special needs and situations to respond to. We prepared a more general message (20 March) addressed to the multi-faith society of Albania which was published and transmitted by the mass media of the country. In this message we added that we owe wholehearted thanks to those who are tasked with maintaining public cleanliness, order, and information, and especially to the healthcare professionals who are on the vanguard of the battle for the care of the infected. We emphasized that while remaining inside our homes, let us not permit irritations and conflicts to fester, but let us cultivate creativity, a peaceful disposition, kindness, understanding, affection, and love.

We highlighted that all who are faithful, let us intensify our prayer for the period of this trial to not be protracted, for the recovery of those who are seriously afflicted, and for the spread of the pandemic to be limited. Even more, let us pray that God enlightens the researchers to swiftly determine the proper preventive and therapeutic processes. Something good will ultimately come out of this crisis and we hope that human societies will reexamine their values and priorities.

How can we protect lives? What can we, as church/religious communities do?

Archbishop Anastasios: Primarily we must emphasize our duty to remain at home according to the directives of the government and the healthcare authorities. We have to stop travels and circulation. Let us be vigilant that these measures do not lead to a personal isolation. On the contrary, let us strengthen each other with courage, prayer, words, simple acts, silence full of affection; especially towards those who are at greater risk.

It is important that in the conscience of the community is the awareness that the services are continuously celebrated in chapels throughout all the Dioceses, with closed doors – as symbolic candles. It is not only the coronavirus that is transmittable, at the same a freedom from fear and anxiety based on faith and love must be transmitted continuously with a joyful disposition.

What can we do when safe gatherings are no longer possible or when an increasing number of at-risk persons are unable to attend services?

Archbishop Anastasios: In countries where the Church has the possibility to provide television or radio feeds, we can enhance the transmission of the services though these forms of media while advising our people to follow these transmissions. Regarding Sunday School for the children, lessons and videos can be created online and shared by the parishes. The faithful can also create a type of home church for this period, praying the services in the small group of the family, and perhaps together with a neighboring family, in order that we may celebrate the services together. Another proposal is to create Bible Study Groups. Other opportunities include singing together and listening to Church music and hymns together.

What about 'stigma and discrimination’?

Archbishop Anastasios: It would be a great mistake to discriminate or place a stigma on those who are infected by this disease. On the contrary, this adventure brings them to the status of the ‘least of these’ which Christ refers to in his account of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25). Our attitude towards these new cases of ‘the least of these’ is our attitude to Christ Himself. We must find ways to assist the sick directly or indirectly; to help their families and children if they do not survive. Of course, we also are obliged to support all the healthcare professionals, who come in contact with the virus daily, and continuously express our gratitude to them through prayer and by following their guidelines.

As Albania confronts unprecedented challenges, what can the global fellowship pray for you?

Archbishop Anastasios: The common prayer for all countries is that we may pass this trial with the fewest number of victims. This pandemic creates not only infirmities, but also creates widespread economical consequences, especially devastating for poorer countries like Albania which has also recently suffered from the disastrous effects of a great earthquake. The pandemic is not local; it is global. Therefore, the response must also be with a global solidarity in order to have a ‘globalization of solidarity.’ The richer countries have a responsibility to assist the poorer countries, like Albania, that will suffer more acute consequences of the financial troubles and social problems.

Since we are in the period of preparation for Easter, let us remember that the crucified and resurrected Christ offered to His disciples peace and freedom from fear, promising them that He will remain with them through all tribulations until the end of time. We must increase this confidence in His presence and in the fact that He will not abandon us in our trial. Let us celebrate Easter free of every syndrome of fear and anxiety, let us resist.

This year we shall not be able to transmit the Paschal light from candle to candle - as is the custom of the Orthodox Churches. Let us transmit from heart to heart the light of hope and fearlessness in our Risen Lord.

Christ is Risen!

The WCC interview produced in collaboration with the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania


More on COVID-19 (https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/covid-19)

Mar. 25, 2020

In the early hours of Wednesday 3/25/2020, the majority leader of the USA senate, republican McConnel announced that they got a deal package of two trillion dollars done in a bipartisan
manner to stimulate a failing Covid 19 impacted economy.
The deal was expected sometime by Monday but did not happen because of opposition from the democratic leadership and members including speaker Pelosi and senate minority leader Schumer.
The democrats wanted safeguards and regulations on how the almost $500 billion allocated to help companies would be made accountable to the American people. The negotiators agreed to the creation of an oversight board and an inspector general to see to the accountability aspects of the money going to distressed Companies.
$50 billion of the loans for companies is for airline passenger carriers.
Small businesses through the small business administration will get loans from an allocated sum of $10 billion.
#130 billion is allocated for hard-hit hospitals while states and local governments with liquidity issues originating from their Covid 19 expenses will share $150 billion.
Individuals who earn $75,000 or less will get $1200 each. $2.400 each will be given to married couples who earn about $150.000 with each child getting $500 also.
The country is waiting for the final bill text which has been given different descriptions like “the single largest main street assistance program in the history of the united states “ by Larry Kudlow the administration,s chief economic adviser. Schumer called it “the largest rescue package in American history “ and it was clear that it was necessary.
Mcconnel belief the stimulus would help American workers, families, and industries affected and or impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. It creates unemployment insurance for small businesses, it stabilizes key industries and a major relief to hospitals who would be able to get the needed vaccines and therapeutics including testing, research, and manpower development, and also strengthening most hospitals and public health systems.
The financial stimulus reveals the relationship between health and development. Within a short time, we have seen how a global health pandemic has disrupted the national economy, affecting jobs, commerce, trade, and incomes.
The financial stimulus also shows how governments could have to spend big to stabilize a failing economy.
It is now left to the senate and house to vote on the final deal.
Mayor Turner of Houston says that his city will wait for the package to be voted into law by both chambers of the congress before we get to know all the contents and provisions for Houstonians
Dr. Akwo, Ntuba Thompson