WHO press release - 10 april 2020Globally nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO and more than 92,000 deaths. In the past week we have seen a welcome slowing in some of the hardest-hit countries in Europe like Spain, Italy, Germany and France.
At the same time we have seen an alarming acceleration in other countries. I want to take a moment to highlight Africa, where we're seeing the spread of the virus to rural areas. We're now seeing clusters of cases and community spread in more than 16 countries. We anticipate severe hardship for already overstretched health systems, particularly in rural areas which normally lack the resources of those in cities.
"I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions. WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone. At the same time lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly. WHO is working with affected countries on strategies for gradually and safely easing restrictions. Important factors to consider are, first, the transmission is controlled; second, that sufficient public health and medical services are available; third, that outbreak risks in special settings like long-term care facilities are minimised; fourth, that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it's essential for people to go. Fifth, that importation risks can be managed; and sixth - and I cannot overemphasise this point - that communities are fully aware and engaged in the transition. Every single person has a role to play in ending this pandemic. We're particularly concerned by the large number of infections reported among health workers. In some countries there are reports of up to 10% of health workers being infected. This is an alarming trend. "
On Wednesday I mentioned the new United Nations Supply Chain Task Force to co-ordinate and scale up the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment, lab diagnostics and oxygen to the countries that need it most. This initiative will be co-ordinated by WHO and the World Food Programme, building on existing collaboration between multiple partners from within and outside the UN. This system will consist of hubs in Belgium, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malaysia, Panama, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. We estimate this supply chain may need to cover more than 30% of the world's needs in the acute phase of the pandemic. Every month we will need to ship at least 100 million medical masks and gloves, up to 25 million N-95 respirators, gowns and face shields, up to 2.5 million diagnostic tests and large quantities of oxygen concentrators and other equipment for clinical care.
With regard to antibody tests, antibody tests do not detect the virus. What they do is they detect your immune response to the virus and it takes days and weeks to develop that full immune response so it can be detected by those blood tests and in this case antibody tests require the taking of a blood sample or a pinprick on the finger, a small blood sample and you try to detect the antibodies. In general the PCR-based tests are better for telling whether you're infected or not and the serology test or the blood test is better to detect whether you've been infected recently or in the past. There are different types of antibody you test for IGM and IGG that can tell you more so it's a complex issue. Right now for governments they need to focus specifically on PCR-based testing or any form of testing that detects active infection but serology and serologic tests are extremely important for determining how many people have been infected in the population and those data are very important to tell us where we're going in this epidemic.
The challenge with that is when you look at it at the national level it doesn't give you the details that you need at that sub-national level and looking at certain populations. For example when we know that there are individuals who have underlying conditions we know that that group or older people who are over 60 years old; that group has a very different breakdown in terms of how many of them will develop severe disease. In all of our models and our forecasting tools we used the breakdown of 40% mild, 40% moderate, 15% critical and 5% severe and we feel that that's a good basis for some of these projections and some of these tools to be able to prepare for supplies but as new data become available we will modify those percentages when they come out.