Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)
Weekly Epidemiological and Operational updates
last update: 8 October 2020, 20:00 GMT-4
Confirmed cases :: 45 428 731 [week ago: 42 055 863] [two weeks ago: 39 023 292]
Confirmed deaths :: 1 185 721 [week ago: 1 141 567] [two weeks ago: 1 099 586]
Countries, areas or territories with cases :: 219
Statement on the fifth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic
30 October 2020 Statement
The fifth meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) took place on Thursday, 29 October 2020 from 12:30 to 16:05 Geneva time (CEST).
Proceedings of the meeting
Members and advisors of the Emergency Committee were convened by videoconference…
The Secretariat turned the meeting over to the Chair, Professor Didier Houssin. Professor Houssin also welcomed the Committee and reviewed the objectives and agenda of the meeting.
The WHO Assistant Directors-General for Emergency Response and for Emergency Preparedness and International Health Regulations provided an overview of the current context and an update on the implementation of the 1 August 2020 Temporary Recommendation. WHO continues to assess the global risk level of the COVID-19 pandemic as very high.
The Committee expressed strong appreciation for WHO’s leadership and activities throughout the global response. In particular, the Committee appreciated WHO’s critical role in developing evidence-based guidance and recommendations; providing countries with technical assistance and operational support; communicating clear information and addressing misinformation; and convening the Solidarity Trials and the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. The Committee commended WHO’s sustained efforts to strengthen national, regional, and global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After ensuing discussion, the Committee unanimously agreed that the pandemic still constitutes an extraordinary event, a public health risk to other States through international spread, and continues to require a coordinated international response. As such, the Committee considered the COVID-19 pandemic to remain a public health emergency of international concern and offered advice to the Director-General.
The Director-General determined that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to constitute a PHEIC. He accepted the advice of the Committee to WHO and issued the Committee’s advice to States Parties as Temporary Recommendations under the IHR (2005).
The Emergency Committee will be reconvened within three months, at the discretion of the Director-General. The Director-General thanked the Committee for its work.
Advice to the WHO Secretariat
Leadership and Coordination
1. Continue to coordinate global and regional multilateral organizations, partners, and networks and share best practices for responding to the pandemic.
2. Provide States Parties with a mechanism including templates and processes to report on national progress in implementing the temporary recommendations; collect, analyze, and provide regular updates to the Committee on this progress.
Evidence-Based Response Strategies
3. Continue to provide evidence-based guidance for COVID-19 readiness and response. This guidance should include sustainable long-term response strategies, mitigation approaches for different levels of transmission, refined indicators for risk management and pandemic response, a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of public health and social measures for COVID-19 response, and lessons learned including from intra-action reviews.
4. Continue to convene multi-disciplinary experts to agree on consistent language for and to further explain: all potential modes of transmission and virulence of SARS-CoV-2; severity risk factors and epidemiology of COVID-19; and the striking diversity of the pandemic dynamics globally.
5. Continue intersectoral collaborations to understand the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the role/impact of animals, and provide regular updates on international research findings.
6. Continue to work with partners to refine mathematical models that can inform policy decisions on how best to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
Surveillance and Contact Tracing
7. Continue to work with partners and networks to provide guidance, tools, and trainings to support countries in strengthening their robust public health surveillance, comprehensive contact tracing, and cluster investigation.
8. Encourage and support countries to understand and report on their epidemiological situation and relevant indicators including through leveraging existing influenza sentinel surveillance systems for COVID-19.
Risk communications and community engagement
9. Continue to work with partners to counter the ongoing infodemic and provide guidance on community mobilization to support effective public health and social measures.
Diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines
10. Continue to support development of and equitable access to diagnostics, safe and effective therapeutics and vaccines, through the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator; continue to work with all ACT Accelerator partners to provide countries with additional clarity on the processes to enable equitable and timely access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, including in humanitarian settings.
11. Accelerate support to enhance countries’ readiness for COVID-19 vaccine introduction by providing guidance, tools, and technical assistance for critical areas such as vaccination strategies, vaccine acceptance and demand, training, supply and logistics with a focus on cold chain, and monitoring uptake and vaccine safety.
Health Measures in Relation to International Traffic
12. Continue to work with partners to update and review evidence-based guidance for international travel consistent with IHR (2005) provisions. This guidance should focus on effective, risk-based, and coherent approaches (including targeted use of diagnostics and quarantine) that consider transmission levels, response capacities in origin and destination countries, and relevant travel-specific considerations.
Essential Health Services
13. Work with partners to support countries in strengthening their essential health services, with a particular focus on mental health, public health prevention and control systems, and other societal impacts, as well as preparing for and responding to concurrent outbreaks, such as seasonal influenza. Special attention should continue to be provided to vulnerable settings.
Temporary Recommendations to State Parties
Leadership and coordination
1. Continue to share with WHO best practices, including from intra-action reviews, and apply lessons learned for mitigating resurgence of COVID-19; invest in implementing National Action Plans for sustainable preparedness and response capacities in compliance with the IHR requirements.
2. Report to WHO on progress in implementing the Temporary Recommendations, particularly major achievements, milestones, and obstacles. This information will empower countries, WHO, partners, and the Committee to continue to make informed decisions as the pandemic evolves.
Evidence-Based Response Strategies
3. Avoid politicization or complacency with regards to the pandemic response which negatively impact local, national, regional, and global response efforts. National strategies and localized readiness and response activities should be driven by science, data, and experience and should engage and enable all sectors using a whole-of-society approach.
4. Implement a dynamic risk management approach using appropriate indicators to inform time-limited, evidence-based public health and social measures.
5. Conduct research and share information on transmission, including role of aerosols; presence and potential impact of SARS-CoV-2 in animal populations; and potential sources of contamination (such as frozen products) to mitigate potential risks through preventative measures and international cooperation.
Surveillance and Contact Tracing
6. Sustain efforts to strengthen public health surveillance systems and investments in a trained workforce for active case finding, comprehensive contact tracing, and cluster investigations.
7. Continue timely and consistent reporting to WHO, including through platforms such as GISRS, on all recommended indicators for COVID-19 epidemiology and severity, response measures, and concurrent outbreaks, to enhance global understanding of the pandemic’s evolution.
Risk Communications and Community Engagement
8. Engage and empower individuals and communities to strengthen confidence in the COVID-19 response and promote sustained adherence to public health and social measures underpinned by the principles of solidarity and human rights; monitor and address rumours and misinformation.
Diagnostics, Therapeutics, and Vaccines
9. Establish a national multi-disciplinary taskforce, assess progress using the COVID-19 Vaccine Introduction Readiness Assessment Tool (VIRAT), and prepare the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan, which can serve as the holistic operational plan for COVID-19 vaccine introduction. A strong emphasis should be placed on communication with communities to prepare for COVID-19 vaccination.
Health Measures in Relation to International Traffic
10. Regularly re-consider measures applied to international travel in compliance with Article 43 of the IHR (2005) and continue to provide information and rationales to WHO on measures that significantly interfere with international traffic. Ensure that measures affecting international traffic (including targeted use of diagnostics and quarantine) are risk-based, evidence-based, coherent, proportionate and time limited.
11. Continue to strengthen capacity at points of entry to manage potential risks of cross-border transmission and to facilitate international contact tracing.
Essential Health Services
12. Maintain essential health services with sufficient funding, supplies, and human resources; strengthen health systems to cope with mental health impacts of the pandemic, concurrent disease outbreaks, and other emergencies.
WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 26 October 2020
26 October 2020
:: Last week saw the highest number of COVID-19 cases reported so far. Many countries in the northern hemisphere are seeing a concerning rise in cases and hospitalisations. And intensive care units are filling up to capacity in some places, particularly in Europe and North America.
We must do all we can to protect health workers, and the best way to do that is for all of us to take every precaution we can to reduce the risk of transmission, for ourselves and others. No one wants more so-called lockdowns. But if we want to avoid them, we all have to play our part.
:: The fight back against this pandemic is everyone’s business. We cannot have the economic recovery we want and live our lives the way we did before the pandemic. We can keep our kids in school, we can keep businesses open, we can preserve lives and livelihoods. We can do it! But we must all make trade-offs, compromises and sacrifices.
:: When leaders act quickly and deliberately, the virus can be suppressed. But, where there has been political division at the national level; where there has been blatant disrespect for science and health professionals, confusion has spread and cases and deaths have mounted. This is why I have said repeatedly: stop the politicisation of COVID-19.
:: Last week WHO conducted its first global e-learning course on health and migration, addressing a critical and often neglected topic of global health. It’s vital that all countries include refugees and migrants in their national policies as part of their commitment to universal health coverage.
Weekly epidemiological update – 27 October 2020
Global epidemiological situation
In the past week the highest number of new COVID-19 cases have been reported globally, amounting to over 2 million new cases in the past 7 days (Figure 1), the shortest intervals for this exponential increase since the start of the pandemic, while the number of new deaths is comparable to previous weeks. As of 25 October, over 42 million cases and 1.1 million deaths have been reported globally, with over 2.8 million new cases and nearly 40 000 new deaths reported over the past week.
For the second consecutive week the European Region accounts for the greatest proportion of reported new cases, with over 1.3 million new cases reported this past week – a 33% increase in cases compared to the previous week – contributing nearly half of all new cases reported worldwide this week (46%) (Table 1). Similarly, the number of deaths continues to increase in the region with a 35% increase from last week and accounting for nearly one third of all new deaths globally. Although not as substantial, increases in reported new cases were also observed in the Region of the Americas, Eastern-Mediterranean and African regions. Declines in cases and deaths continued to be reported in the South-East Asia region while the Western Pacific region has shown a slight decline in new cases and deaths in the past 7 days.
Despite regional variations the countries reporting the highest number of cases in the past week remain the same as the previous 3 weeks: India, the United States of America, France, Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Key weekly updates
:: “We are at a critical juncture in this pandemic…We urge leaders to take immediate action, to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again.” stressed the WHO Director-General Dr Tedros as part of the regular press briefing on COVID-19 on 23 October. Dr Tedros expanded that as the northern hemisphere enters winter, cases are accelerating, particularly in Europe and North America. The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track. WHO is calling on governments to carry out five key actions:
1. Assess the current outbreak situation in your country based on the latest data
2. For those countries where cases, hospitalizations and ICU rates are rising, make the necessary adjustments and course correct as quickly as possible.
3. Be clear and honest with the public about the status of the pandemic in your country and what is needed from every citizen to get through this pandemic together.
4. Put systems in place to make it easier for citizens to comply with the measures that are advised.
5. Improve contact tracing systems and focus on isolating all cases and quarantining contacts, to avoid mandatory stay at home orders for everyone.
:: WHO has updated its draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines, which lists 44 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation. At a press briefing last week, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, said “We’re looking at the beginning of next year really to start seeing data for many of the trials though we may see one or two before the end of the year but the majority will start reporting in early 2021.Manycompanies are already manufacturing several million doses so as soon as the results are out, if it’s promising, companies will be able to start providing those doses to the COVAX facility which will then distribute based on the fair allocation framework that we have developed…”
:: WHO has published an assessment tool for laboratories implementing SARS-CoV-2 testing to assess the capacity of laboratories that have implemented or intend to implement testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19)…