Coronavirus new reality, we’ll have to learn to live with it: WHO official

India

World Health Organization (WHO) special envoy for Covid-19 David Nabarro, in an exclusive interview with India Today TV, said the coronavirus, which has killed 17 in India and thousands worldwide, is going to be the new reality. David Nabarro also said that the world will have to learn to live with the coronavirus. He, however, asserted that dealing with the initial outbreak, identifying those who have been infected and keeping them in isolation so as to prevent its transmission are the keys to flatten the coronavirus outbreak curve.

“I believe that the world will have to learn to live with corona in our midst and that means being on a constant defense everywhere as we do with other infectious diseases. Then, you can avoid these giant outbreaks occurring. The whole world, on alert, ready to pounce as soon as these new cases emerge. I don’t think we can, at this stage, talk about ending the pandemic. It’s going to be the new reality for everybody,” David Nabarro said.

When he was asked if a complete lockdown would help in containing the spread of coronavirus, he said, “This pandemic is expanding very rapidly. It seems to double in size every few days. So dramatic actions by all nations are needed to reduce its intensity. The most important step is to interrupt the transmission of the virus from person to person and the only way to interrupt is to make sure that the people who have been infected with the disease are kept away and are prevented from passing on to the others.”

“The best way to do that is to have communities to organize people who have Covid-19 symptoms and make sure they stay away for at least 14 days. One approach to do that is a complete lockdown but a lockdown must be complemented by the transmission interruption means community-level work to keep people separate from each other,” the WHO special envoy said.

On being asked if the coronavirus outbreak could get worse in India, given the size of the population, David Nabarro said, “India is absolutely critical given the size of the population and the fact that India has a really low developed public health service. It requires efforts by every single citizen.”

Talking about the complete lockdown which began on March 25, David Nabarro said, “The transmission in India is at much earlier stage than in it’s in Europe and the US. I think it’s great that decisive action has been taken in line with the recommendations of WHO by the govt and the people of India. But, I do want to stress that you have lockdown as well and a very good community-level public health service, you also have to protect your health workers as much as possible. It is something India has done very well over the years. But if you release the lockdown before you are ready to contain the disease by interrupting transmission then you will get a rebound.”

‘GOOD QUALITY PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE NEEDED’

“A very good quality public health service is needed, ready to identify the people with the disease and isolate them. Secondly, making sure that health workers are protected so that hospital services are able to function. It does take some time to bend these curves. We have a piece of very good evidence from China, from South Korea. It took a number of weeks to flatten the outbreak,” the WHO special envoy said.

He added that the whole process to flatten the Covid-19 curve will take some time.

“It will take some time but in the process, the people of India, working at the community level, can get control of this disease by identifying those who are ill and making sure they are kept isolated. This is the only way to break transmission,” he said.

WHAT INDIA HAS DONE IS IN LINE WITH WHAT WHO WANTS: WHO SPECIAL ENVOY

The World Health Organization special envoy said that the numbers in India will increase just like in other countries but the rapid action by the government might make a change.

“There will be increases in India as there have been in another country. But the fact that the government took very rapid action, given the stage of the outbreak in India and the fact that you have all of society working to try to make sure that makes me feel more optimistic. What India has done is in line with what WHO wants, provided we recognize the elements,” David Nabarro said.

On Massachusetts Institute of Technology findings that 90 per cent coronavirus cases have happened in regions with a temperature lower than 18 degrees and in regions with higher temperatures, the virus gets less potent, the WHO special envoy said, “The higher temperature could reduce transmission. You get this disease by receiving and inhaling droplets exhaled by someone who has the disease. It is highly likely that in hot weather, these virus particles are less likely to survive. I am hopeful but we can’t use hope to determine the strategy.”

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