Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)
Weekly Epidemiological and Operational updates
last update: 8 October 2020, 20:00 GMT-4
Confirmed cases :: 42 055 863 [week ago: 39 023 292] [two weeks ago: 36 754 395]
Confirmed deaths :: 1 141 567 [week ago: 1 099 586] [two weeks ago: 1 064 838]
Countries, areas or territories with cases :: 218
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WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 23 October 2020
:: We are at a critical juncture in this pandemic, particularly in the northern hemisphere. The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track. We urge leaders to take immediate action, to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again.
:: Oxygen is one of the most essential medicines for saving patients with COVID-19, and many other conditions. WHO is committed to working in solidarity with all governments, partners and the private sector to scale up sustainable oxygen supply.
:: Tomorrow marks World Polio Day week, and partners around the world – led in particular by Rotary International – are organising events and raising awareness about the need to eradicate polio.
:: Smallpox eradication is a remarkable achievement, not least because it was completed at the heart of the Cold War. Health did then and should now always come above politics and it is with sadness that this week we lost one of the great titans of smallpox eradication with the passing of Dr Mike Lane. We will continue to honour his legacy.
:: WHO is proud to announce the second Health for All Film Festival, to cultivate visual storytelling about public health.
Weekly epidemiological update – 20 October 2020
Global epidemiological situation
The incidence of new COVID-19 cases has continued to accelerate, while the incidence of new deaths has remained relatively stable (Figure 1). As of 18 October, over 40 million cases and 1.1 million deaths have been reported globally, with over 2.4 million new cases and 36 000 new deaths reported over the past week.
The European Region has continued to report a rapid increase in cases and deaths, with over 927 000 new cases reported this past week – a 25% weekly increase in cases compared to the previous week – contributing 38% of all new cases reported worldwide (Table 1). Similarly, the number of deaths continues to climb with a 29% increase from last week. Increases, although more gradual, were also observed in the African, Eastern-Mediterranean and Western Pacific Regions. Declines continued to be reported in the Region of the Americas and the South-East Asia Region; although the incidence of new infections remains high, and collectively these two regions contribute over half of new cases and deaths observed globally.
The countries reporting the highest number of cases in the past week remain the same as last week: India, the United States of America, France, Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Key weekly updates
:: Therapeutics: The Solidarity Therapeutics Trial have produced conclusive evidence on whether selected repurposed drugs are effective for COVID-19. Interim results from the Solidarity Therapeutics Trial, coordinated by WHO, indicate that remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens appear to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the in-hospital course of COVID-19 among hospitalised patients.
:: A call of Solidarity: Kim Sledge and the World We Want have partnered with WHO Foundation to re-record the unity anthem, “We Are Family”, in response to COVID-19 and to bring focus on global public health needs. A special edition cover of Sister Sledge’s hit “We Are Family” will be released in a new and inspiring call for global solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to generate proceeds to address the most pressing global health challenges of our time. In support of the song’s release, people worldwide are invited to submit videos of themselves singing We Are Family for inclusion in a compilation video for release on 7 December 2020.
:: Briefings: WHO Director-General Dr Tedros, in his regular media briefing on 12 October, expressed concern around the concept of reaching so-called “herd immunity” by the letting the virus spread – “never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic”. Furthermore, in a media briefing on 16 October, Dr Tedros highlighted the rising number of cases of COVID-19 globally, especially in Europe where, although the number of deaths reported is much lower than in March, hospitalisations are increasing.
:: Health System Strengthening: WHO published a Handbook for public health capacity-building at ground crossings and cross-border collaboration. The objectives of the handbook are to introduce principles of strategic risk assessment for prioritizing preparedness and response capacity building; highlight issues to consider when selecting ground crossings for designation under the International Health Regulations (2005, IHR); and, support the establishment and maintenance of cross-border collaboration to improve coordination and communication.
:: Food security, public health and livelihoods: On 13 October, WHO with the International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) released a joint statement on the Impact of COVID-19 on people’s livelihoods, their health and our food systems. The pandemic has been affecting the entire food system and has laid bare its fragility. Border closures, trade restrictions and confinement measures have been preventing farmers from accessing markets, including for buying inputs and selling their produce, and agricultural workers from harvesting crops, thus disrupting domestic and international food supply chains and reducing access to healthy, safe and diverse diets. According to the policy brief published by the United Nations, in the long run, we face possible disruptions to the functioning of food systems, with severe consequences for health and nutrition.