WHO re-emphasises importance of COVID-19 testing

WHO technical lead for COVID-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove. Screengrab: Twitter/@WHO
WHO technical lead for COVID-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove. Screengrab: Twitter/@WHO

The World Health Organization has once again emphasised the importance of increased testing to check the spread of COVID-19. The global health body on Thursday recommended active testing of people who have been exposed to the virus even if they don't show symptoms. 

Speaking at a press briefing, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said in the investigations of virus clusters "testing may need to be expanded to look for individuals who are on the more mild end of the spectrum or who may indeed be asymptomatic."

"What's really important is that testing is used as an opportunity, to define active cases so that they can be isolated and so that contact tracing can also take place," she said. "This is really fundamental to breaking chains of transmission."

The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had on Monday issued new guidelines which surprisingly eased testing protocol by saying that it is not necessary for people who have been in close contact with infected people but who do not feel sick or show symptoms to get tested.

The move received a lot of backlash from health care professionals with the CDC director Robert Redfield on Thursday saying that even those who come in contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 patient can be tested, even if they don’t show symptoms. 

Van Kerkhove said countries were free to adapt WHO's testing guidance for their individual needs.

She also expressed concern that the use of masks is leading some people to think they don't need to keep safe distances from others.

"We're seeing that people aren't really adhering to the physical distancing anymore," Van Kerkhove said. "Even if you're wearing masks, you still need to try to do the physical distancing of at least one meter and even further if you can."

WHO has also recommended that children 6 to 11 wear masks at times to prevent the spread of the virus, especially in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained, and children 12 and older wear masks as often as adults.

With the ongoing summer holiday season in Europe, WHO has also issued advice for hotels and related businesses including reduced occupancy rates to ensure social distancing.

They have also recommended physical barriers like protective plexiglass shields should be used to separate hotel staff and guests at reception desks.

WHO also said that "buffets are not recommended" and that gyms, pools and spa facilities should be used with restrictions, like limiting the maximum number of people to ensure social distancing. 

CtoI News Desk
CtoI News Desk – CtoI

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