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World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the COVID-19 pandemic has “given new impetus to the need to accelerate efforts to respond to climate change.”

Speaking to reporters today (21 Aug) in Geneva, Tedros reiterated that the pandemic has “given us a glimpse of our world as it could be: cleaner skies and rivers. Building back better means building back greener.”

WHO’s Dr Maria Neira said, “You will be more susceptible to develop morbidity and mortality because those diseases that are caused as well by exposure to air pollution will make you more vulnerable.”

She continued, “it will increase your risk and your susceptibility, therefore, we don’t know about the correlation, the real correlation between the mortality of COVID and exposure to air pollution but we know for sure that there’s an important risk factor that we need to tackle.”

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHOS’s COVID-19 Technical lead said “what is important when we consider schools is we consider the context in which schools are operating. Schools do not operate in isolation, they operate in communities and they work in communities. And if there is the virus circulating in those communities, if there’s widespread transmission in those communities, or intense transmission, the virus can enter the school system.”

She noted that it is important that “what is done in the community of trying to reduce transmission and bring those outbreaks under control, is really what the focus needs to be then to consider opening schools.”

Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme told reporters that it is very important “when we talk about the context of schools or the wearing of masks in schools, and as that guidance emerges, that the wearing of masks is not an alternative to physical distancing, it’s not an alternative to hand washing, it’s not an alternative to decompressing class size, it’s not an alternative to all of the other measures. “

He added, “just because kids or others put masks on does not mean we can forget about the other measures.”

Ryan also said, “this virus is not displaying a similar wave-like pattern, clearly when the disease is not under control, it jumps straight back up. But from that perspective, the classic wave pattern of the 1918-1919 pandemic was very clear. But it did take three complete waves for that disease to spread around the world and infect most susceptibles.”

Updating reporters on the Ebola outbreak in the Equateur province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tedros said, “the outbreak continues to increase and to spread geographically. Yesterday the 100th case was reported, with 43 deaths in 11 health zones across the province. There is currently a delay of about 5 days from the onset of symptoms to when an alert about a suspected case is raised. This is concerning.”

He also said, “there continues to be an urgent need for increased human resources and logistics capacity to support an effective response across an ever-expanding geographical area, and to help health officials identify cases earlier.”

Tedro said, that the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has developed a plan that needs about 40 million U.S. dollars. He urged partners to support this plan.



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