WHO asks South-East Asian countries, including Nepal, to rigorously implement public health, social measures

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called upon countries in the South-East Asia region to scale up their social measures and implement public health safety measures rigorously so as to prevent another wave of COVID-19.

Nepal is among the 11 countries in the region.

The WHO also urged to accelerate the pace of vaccine rollout as more countries in the region have confirmed the prevalence of highly transmissible variants.

“We need to continuously strengthen our efforts to test, trace and isolate. Societal interventions such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and proper wearing of masks need to be stringently implemented. These measures should be in full force and for longer periods in areas reporting more transmissible variants of concerns,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.

Public health and social measures are a wide range of non-pharmaceutical interventions, both individual and societal, and are cost-effective measures to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and save lives.

In addition to personal protective measures, they include cleaning, disinfection, ventilation, surveillance, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.

Even as countries scale up vaccination against COVID-19, they need to implement public health and social measures in tailored and agile way, Dr Singh said.

“A risk-based approach is needed for public health and social measures. These measures should be implemented by the lowest administrative level and continuously adjusted to the intensity of transmission and the capacity of health systems.”

The capacity of the health systems includes both clinical care for COVID-19 and non COVID-19, and public health services such as case detection, diagnostic testing, contact tracing. The risk assessment should measure both the actual ability to deliver services, and the performance of those services, Dr Singh said.

“Where more transmissible Variants of Concern are spreading, these measures need to be applied more stringently and for longer periods,” the Regional Director said.

Earlier this week Maldives and Myanmar confirmed transmission of Variants of Concern. Earlier, Variants of Concern have been confirmed in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste, as per WHO.

The Variants of Concern, along with opening of economies and societies, contributed to the recent surge in cases globally.

Though the South-East Asia region is now witnessing an overall decline in cases, mainly due to decreasing cases reported in India, in some other countries the cases are still increasing.

“We must not forget that the pandemic is still around. We must guard against complacency, at any level. We must continue to implement combinations of public health and social measures until globally there high COVID-19 vaccine coverage among health workers, and high-risk and vulnerable groups,” the Regional Director said.