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Access to basic handwashing facilities is a key condition for schools to be able to operate safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the latest data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) found that 43% of schools worldwide lacked access to basic handwashing with soap and water in 2019. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed over 390 000 people in the Americas, is threatening regional plans to eliminate and control infectious diseases including tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis and others, WHO Regional Director for the Americas, Dr Carissa F. Etienne said yesterday. 

Nearly 20 million cases of COVID-19 have now been recorded. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros stressed that behind these statistics there is a great deal of pain and suffering. He emphasized that ‘There are two essential elements to addressing the pandemic effectively. Leaders must step up to take action and citizens need to embrace new measures…My message is crystalclear: suppress, suppress, suppress the virus’.

Over the past weeks, WHO has been adding functionality to its COVID-19 global dashboard, to display all of the latest data that have been published in the daily situation report; these data are now fully available on the dashboard. Important narrative updates are being merged into the WHO COVID-19 “Rolling updates”pages. Starting next Monday, 17 August, the daily situation report will be replaced by a “COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update” which will focus on analysis and interpretation of the evolving epidemiologic situation. Operational updates will continue to be shared through the “Weekly Operational Update on COVID-19”.

“Now it’s time to work together. Now it’s time to fight the virus”, said Dr Tedros in a media briefing on Thursday last week.

WHO has published guidance on the public health surveillance of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in humans caused by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This document combines and supersedes the Global surveillance guidance for COVID-19 caused by human infection with COVID-19 virus: Interim guidance, and Surveillance strategies for COVID-19 human infection: Interim Guidance 10 May 2020.

The Pan-American Health Organization/WHO Regional Office for the Americas/has drawn upon the Strategic Fund for Public Health Supplies to procure and distribute millions of COVID-19 diagnostic kits, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and other essential health supplies to countries throughout the region. Thus far, over 10 million PCR diagnostic tests have been sent to six countries. The Strategic Fund also helped finance PPE including face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, masks and respirators for 26 countries in the region. 

The WHO Regional Office for the Americas has issued a warning against the use of chlorine products as treatment for COVID-19. WHO recommends that people avoid consuming products containing chlorine dioxide or related substances (sodium hypochlorite, bleach, etc.) and that all marketing of such products for therapeutic purposes be reported to the authorities.

WHO Regional Director for the Americas, Dr Carissa Etienne, has warned of disruptions to regular health services due to COVID-19. Health workers have been redirected to care for COVID-19 patients, people are hesitating to seek routine care due to fears of infection, and global supply chains of medicines and equipment are strained.

With over 18 million cases reported today, and new cases rising by around 250 000 each day, now is not the time to be complacent. Assome economies and societies open up, WHO continues to urgethe public to remain vigilant and take precautions to avoid getting COVID-19; while urging countries to increasetesting and contact tracing to ensure no cases are missedand ensure appropriate treatment is available.

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