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(Barbados Today) – Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus disclosed that several of COVID-19 vaccines are “now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection.”

However, speaking to reporters in Geneva today (Aug 03), Tedros noted, “there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be.”

He explained, “for now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control. Testing, isolating and treating patients, and tracing and quarantining their contacts. Do it all. Inform, empower and listen to communities. Do it all.”

He also said that the WHO advance team that travelled to China has now concluded their mission to lay the groundwork for further joint efforts to identify the virus origins, adding that “as a result of these efforts, WHO and Chinese experts have drafted the Terms of Reference for the studies and programme of work for an international team, led by WHO.”

Tedros said that the international team will “include leading scientists and researchers from China and around the world. Epidemiological studies will begin in Wuhan to identify the potential source of infection of the early cases.”

WHO’s Dr Michael Ryan told reporters, “it’s like needles in a haystack. You can sample every animal in China and outside, you might have no luck because you’re guessing.”

He continued, “the real trick is to go to the human clusters that occurred first and then to work your way back, systematically looking for that first signal at which the animal/human species barrier was crossed. Once you understand where the barrier was breached, then you move into the studies in a more systematic way on the animal side, and then you’re directed and much more precise in how you achieve that.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead said, “what we understand from many of these studies, these are estimates of the IFR, the Infection Fatality Ratio, is that the estimates hover around less than one per cent or 0.6 per cent. And there are a couple of studies that are out that have estimated this 0.6 per cent. That may not sound like a lot but it is quite high.”

She explained, “if you think about a virus that can transmit readily, that can transmit well and infect, overall we have more than 17 million cases and we still, you know, there’s a long way to go with this pandemic. 0.6 per cent is quite high and so we need to do everything that we can, not only to save lives among the cases that we know about, but to prevent as many infections as possible.”

Dr Michael Ryan also said, “when we talk about death and fatality, that is the outcome of an infection. And an infection is an outcome of an exposure.”

He reiterated, “if people are not exposed to the virus, they cannot be infected. If they’re not infected, they cannot infect anyone else and they don’t die. So we need some push back to the concept of exposure. Everybody on this planet needs to do whatever they can to avoid exposing themselves or exposing others.”

On breastfeeding and COVID-19, the WHO’s chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said, “at the time of COVID-19, especially when there is disruption of health services; WHO recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged, the same as all other mothers, to initiate or continue to breastfeed.”

He explained, “mothers should be counselled that the many, many benefits of breastfeeding for newborn babies and children substantially outweigh the potential risks for COVID-19 infection.”

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