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CORONA VIRUS

Thailand Singled-out As Most Successful In Managing Covid-19

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization has praised Thailand a developing country for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic and urged other countries to re-evaluate their approaches to health care.

Thailand’s numbers “speak for themselves,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in closing remarks on Friday to the World Health Assembly, which took place this week.

Thailand was the first country outside China to report a case of Covid-19, but to date it has counted fewer than 4,000 cases and just 60 fatalities, despite having a population of 70 million and one of the world’s biggest and most tightly packed cities in Bangkok.

By comparison, the U.K., with a population of about 68 million, has had 1.3 million cases and 51,396 fatalities, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

“This is not an accident,” said Tedros. It’s because, in his view, Thailand made a commitment 40 years ago to invest in its health-care infrastructure and has built out a network of more than a million village health volunteers to act as the eyes and ears of the health system in their communities.

Thailand also learned from its experience in handling the SARS outbreak in 2003, he said.

“But Thailand is also learning the lessons of the present, by working with WHO’s country office to conduct an intra-action review, to understand how it can further strengthen its public health defences,” he said. “I urge all countries to follow Thailand’s lead. No country can say it was well-enough prepared for COVID-19, or that it has no lessons to learn.”

The pandemic has shone a light on the consequences of “chronic underinvestment” in public health and ignited an economic crisis hurting billions of lives, he said.

“The time has come for a new narrative that sees health not as a cost but an investment that is the foundation of productive, resilient and stable economies,” he said.

To support that effort, the WHO is setting up a new Council on the Economics of Health for All, he said, that will comprise economists and health experts and be chaired by Mariana Mazzucato, a professor of the economics of innovation and public value at the University of London, said Tedros. The council will hold its first session online in the coming weeks.

Tedros reiterated his message that countries can control the pandemic even without a vaccine by following the public safety measures recommended by health experts and agencies.

“The virus itself has not changed significantly, and nor have the measures needed to stop it. We know what works.

“First, know your epidemic and do the basics well. Find, isolate, test and care for cases. Trace and quarantine their contacts. And second, engage and empower communities to protect themselves and others with the full range of measures: physical distance, avoiding crowds, ventilation, hand hygiene and masks.”

Tedros’s comments come a day after the world suffered the most COVID-19 deaths in a single day since the start of the outbreak at 11,617, according to the Johns Hopkins data. It also set a new-case record of more than 660,000.

The U.S. continues to lead the world by case tally at 10.6 million and death toll at 242,477, the data show. That’s about a fifth of the global tallies for both.

The U.S. set a fresh record for daily cases on Thursday and a fresh record for hospitalizations.

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CORONA VIRUS

Italy Reopen Bars, Restaurants, Concert Halls

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Reports from Italy indicate that Bars, restaurants, cinemas and concert halls have partially reopened across Italy on Monday.

This major shift comes at a time the country has registered a total of 3.96M covid-19 cases since last year. Of these cases, 3.38M have recovered and 119000 deaths recorded.

The vaccination programme is gaining pace with more than 17.5 million jabs administered so far in a population of around 60 million, but there are disparities between regions.

Therefore in a boost for covid-19-hit businesses these bars and other crowding businesses have reopened, as parliament debates the government’s U$266 billion) EU-funded recovery plan.

After months of stop-start restrictions imposed to manage its second and third waves of COVID-19, Italy hopes this latest easing will mark the start of something like a normal summer.

Three-quarters of regions will drop into the low-risk “yellow” categories from Monday, with bars and restaurants permitted to restart table service outside – including, for the first time in six months, in the evening, although a 10pm curfew remains in place.

Cinemas and concert halls can also open at 50 per cent capacity, followed by the staggered opening of swimming pools, gyms, sporting events and theme parks by Jul 1.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi has been under intense pressure from regional governments and increasingly regular street protests to ease restrictions, as Italy battles its deepest recession since World War II.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by the pandemic in early 2020 and remains one of the worst affected, with the EU’s highest reported death toll and one of the deepest recessions.

The economy contracted by a staggering 8.9 per cent last year and a million jobs have been lost.

Italy is pinning its hopes on a €220 billion investment and reform plan funded largely by the EU. Italy is the biggest recipient of the bloc’s €750 billion post-pandemic recovery fund. In parliament today, Draghi is scheduled to formally present the programme he hopes will boost growth by 3.6% points by 2026, ahead of a Friday deadline to submit the package to Brussels.

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CORONA VIRUS

WHO Supports Tanzania’s About-turn On Covid-19

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Tanzanian leadership’s about-turn on the coronavirus received support from the World Health Organization and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which could help the country obtain vaccines and start to catch-up with other nations on the continent.

The east African country’s new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, announced plans earlier this week to appoint a panel of experts to advise her on how best to curb the spread of the virus.

The move is a complete shift from her predecessor’s stance, which was to initially deny the existence of the disease and stop the publication of Covid-19 infection data just months after the pandemic broke out.

The response to the virus by President John Magufuli, who died last month, raised concerns that not only was the local severity of the disease being downplayed, but that there was increased risk of the spread of significant variants that could affect vaccine efficacy across the continent.

“We welcome very sincerely this initiative by the new president of Tanzania, as well as the statements she’s made to the population to ensure people accept the virus is circulating in Tanzania and that she is seeking to understand better the situation,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said in a briefing Thursday.

The WHO has been in talks with Tanzania and offered expertise and discussed ways to access Covid-19 vaccines, she said.

In a separate online briefing, Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said he’s “extremely encouraged with the signals” from Tanzania and that the body has offered clinical assistance.

“They have not officially requested anything from us, but we look forward to engaging with them further as they move forward with this task force,” he said.

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CORONA VIRUS

Professor Niyongabo Warns of Covid-19 Second Wave in Burundi

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For most part of 2020, Burundi government had chosen to ignore existence of covid-19 pandemic and only confided in God as the only shield against the fast spreading virus across the world.

As of Friday, Burundi has officially reported 3,027Total cases, 773 Recovered, and 6 Deaths.

In an exclusive interview with  Burundian Professor Théodore Niyongabo, he opens up slightly on Covid-19 situation in East Africa’s most isolated country and hints that “The vaccine is the only way to control Covid-19”.

Professor Théodore Niyongabo is a specialist in internal medicine and infectious diseases. He looks back on all the current questions related to the pandemic. Here are some excerpts as adapted from local outlet Iwacu.

Faced with the surge of positive cases, can we speak of a second wave in Burundi?

Given the number of cases tested positive for covid-19 on a daily basis, those hospitalized. It is obvious that this is a second wave of contamination.

What do you think is the cause?

Hard to say ! Because the determinants of a wave vary from country to country. Are we in the presence of a new variant, has there been a relaxation somewhere in the population with regard to barrier gestures … The hypotheses are legion.

Once cured, can we be recontaminated? Can we be recontaminated a week after healing?

No, I do not think so. From experience, recontamination is often late. In this regard, the figures are clear.

So far, during the month of February, we have recorded less than 10 cases. Usually, recontamination will take place a year or more later. Granted, this is not yet fully verified, but the facts are there.

If not, can a mother continue to breastfeed her child once she has Covid-19?

Absolutely. In fact, this is what we recommend to them. She should continue to breastfeed. Because breast milk does not transmit Covid-19. But, if the mom has tested positive for the disease, she should wear a mask.

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