By Agence France-Presse and Genalyn Kabiling
The World Health Organization on Sunday urged all countries to prepare for caring for patients severely sickened by the deadly new coronavirus by stocking up on ventilators.
The UN health agency stressed in its latest situation report on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that “oxygen therapy is a major treatment intervention for patients with severe COVID-19.”
“All countries should work to optimize the availability of pulse oximeters and medical oxygen systems,” it said.
Worldwide, nearly 3,000 people have been killed and more than 88,000 infected across some 60 countries since the virus was first detected late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
But WHO noted that the virus appears to particularly hit those over the age of 60 and people already weakened by other illness.
Among the nearly 45,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in China by February 24, only 2.1 percent were under the age of 20, WHO said.
The agency noted that most people with the illness only experience mild symptoms, while around 14 percent suffer severe disease like pneumonia and five percent become critically ill.
The mortality rate in the outbreak appears to be between two and five percent.
The UN health agency stressed the importance of early recognition, followed by “implementation of appropriate infection prevention and control (IPC) measures; provision of symptomatic care for those with mild illness; and optimized supportive care for those with severe disease.”
WHO warned that mortality among those suffering with critical illness had been reported at over 50 percent, emphasizing that rapid “critical care interventions such as lung protective ventilation should be optimized.”
PH, 8 others cited
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, however, said recently that the spread of the coronavirus could be contained, citing the Philippines and eight other counties that have not reported a coronavirus case for more than weeks. The countries include Belgium, Cambodia, Finland, Nepal, Russia, Sri Lanka, and Sweden.
While there is a possibility the spread of coronavirus could be contained, WHO still raised the global COVID-19 risk recently to its highest level as cases continued to surge outside China. The viral outbreak, which started in China, has reportedly infected more than 86,000 globally and left more than 2,900 dead globally.
Although the Philippines was among the countries cited by Tedros, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said there is no room for complacency in health precautions.
Andanar said the Philippine government will remain on guard to prevent and contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
“Let me begin by commending everyone for doing a good job. The World Health Organization recently cited the Philippine as one of the countries that had not reported a new case of coronavirus for more than two weeks now,” he said during a Palace press briefing.
“This is no time to celebrate however as there is much work that needs to be done,” he added.
According to Andanar, the nation must remain vigilant and sustain measures against the coronavirus amid reports of local transmission of disease in other countries.
“Some parts of the globe, local transmission has been prevalent. Thus, we cannot let our guards down and lull ourselves into complacency. We have to remain vigilant, prepared and united in combating his global health emergency,” he said.
“We have to be ‘laging handa,’ always prepared from knowing the alert levels to safety precautions and preventive measures plus government interventions,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) is “not certain” if there are undetected COVID-19 cases in the Philippines but assured the public that it is doing its best to strengthen its surveillance, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during the “Laging Handa” press briefing Monday.
“We are not really certain if there would be undetected coronavirus cases in the Philippines,” Vergeire said. “Kaya nga po pina-iigting natin yung monitor natin para magkaroon tayo ng at least that comfort na sinasabi natin (This is why we are intensifying our monitoring to make us comfortable with what we are stating).”
Vergeire said, the health department is rather trying “as much as possible to identify cases” and isolate those persons under monitoring and patients under investigation to address such concern.
“Nakikita natin ngayong sitwasyon sa Pilipinas (WE can see the current Philippine situation), everything has been covered,” she added, allaying fears of possible undetected cases.
“We are guarding our ports [and] our local governments are doing their efforts also in identifying and trying to monitor all of these persons that should be monitored,” she said. (With a report from Joseph Pedrajas)