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WHO cautions against let up in COVID-19 fight after slight decline in cases in SE Asia

New Delhi, October 19

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday cautioned against any relaxation of response actions following the recent slight decline in COVID-19 cases in the South-East Asia Region, saying the pandemic continues unabated and our response only needs to be strengthened further to curtail virus transmission.

The upcoming festive season and the approaching winter / cold season threatens to aggravate the situation if we let our guards down, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region said.

“There should be no complacency in view of the declining numbers in recent weeks. The Region still reports large numbers of COVID-19 cases. We need to continue to do our very best to curtail the pandemic, ”she said in a statement.

For the third week in a row, the WHO South-East Asia Region has registered a 6-8 per cent decline in the number of COVID-19 cases, mainly due to a decrease in reported cases from India and Bangladesh.

Member countries have been making concerted efforts scaling up capacities for timely detection, testing, tracing contacts, isolating the affected and providing hospital care to those who need it.

“Our relentless efforts need to continue with more vigour,” she said.

This festive season we must continue to take responsibility as individuals of the need to maintain physical distance, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and wear a mask when and where needed.

She said people must remember to avoid the three Cs — crowded places, closed settings, confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

The co-circulation of seasonal influenza and COVID-19 in the winters may present challenges for health systems and health facilities, since both diseases present many similar symptoms. Many of the same measures that are effective in preventing COVID-19 are also effective for preventing influenza, including physical distancing, hand hygiene, covering coughs, ventilation and masks, Singh said in the statement.

WHO is working with countries to take a holistic approach to the preparedness, prevention, control and treatment of all respiratory diseases, including influenza and COVID-19.

Home to one-fourth of the worlds’ population, the region has reported more than 8 million of the nearly 40 million cases globally, mostly from the most populous countries which also face unique demographic and geographic challenges, the statement said.

The WHO continues to support countries in their containment and mitigation efforts providing technical guidance, laboratory capacity strengthening for testing, equipment for hospitals and protection of healthcare workers, and creating awareness and addressing misinformation, she said. PTI