KATHMANDU, Jan 31: The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged South Asian countries including Nepal to remain vigilant and strengthen readiness to rapidly detect any case of importation of the new coronavirus and prevent its spread.
Nepal and India have reported one case each of coronavirus so far.
“It is time to focus all efforts on readiness guided by whatever is known about the new coronavirus,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
As in the case of any new virus, much remains to be understood, the Regional Director said, adding that globally WHO has prepared interim guidance on case detection, testing, clinical management of cases, infection prevention and control during health care, home care for people suspected to have the virus, and guidance on reducing transmission.
WHO is working with countries in the region to roll out these guidelines, prioritizing reviewing and building capacities for laboratory diagnostic, including referral of specimens and diagnosis; trainings in case management, specimen collection and transportation, and infection prevention and control; logistics support and communicating risks and promoting desired behavior in the community.
The regional director stated she has been in contact with the ministers of health since the onset of the outbreak. Last week Dr Khetrapal Singh also took stock of the preparedness and support being extended by WHO to countries.
Three countries in the WHO South-East Asia Region – Thailand, Nepal and India - have reported confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.
Though the new coronavirus being called novel coronavirus-2019 was not declared a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) by the Emergency Committee of the International Health Regulation (IHR) which met last week, its risk was assessed to be ‘high’.
WHO said it is keeping a close watch on the evolving situation and remains committed to work with member countries to scale up readiness and implement IHR core capacities to respond to any importation, Dr Khetrapal Singh said, emphasizing that “We should continue to be vigilant and ready to contain and prevent any further spread.”