WHO: US, Europe must improve quarantine

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  • Quarantining people who have been exposed to sick patients is one of the most basic ways to stop the spread of an infectious disease, like COVID-19.
  • But the WHO says proper quarantine is still not being done “systematically, nowhere” during this pandemic.
  • This is a problem, especially in Europe and the United States, where cases and hospitalizations are on the rise again.
  • Effective quarantine “means not going to work. It means not going to the grocery store. It means not to socialize with friends. It means not having people in your house, ”WHO said.
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Coronavirus cases are on the rise in many parts of Europe and North America, signaling the start of a new wave of this pandemic.

The number of new confirmed cases is increasing particularly rapidly in the United States, United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium, but the increase is not limited to these spots.

“Almost half of our Member States in the European region saw a 50% increase in cases last week,” World Health Organization executive director of health emergencies, Dr Mike Ryan, said Monday, during a virtual press briefing from Geneva. “Obviously, across the board, we’re seeing a huge increase in cases. ”

Part of the reason for the increase in cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in much of the northern hemisphere right now, is that, as temperatures drop, more than gatherings take place indoors, where the virus spreads best.

But there’s also a neglected virus-fighting strategy which Ryan says is one of the main reasons the virus doesn’t go away in some places. There is another measure besides the widespread wearing of masks, handwashing and social distancing that is essential to tackle the spread of the virus and prevent more deaths, and it is not done enough: attracting people who have been exposed to the virus. away from everyone, quickly.

Ryan said the concept, called quarantine, is his one and only “golden wish” to improve the state of the pandemic.

“As a public health doctor, if I was asked one thing that could improve and be a game-changer here, it is: to ensure that every contact of a confirmed case is in quarantine for the appropriate period, so that to break the chains of transmission, ”he said.

Quarantine is working. But the United States and Europe are not doing enough right now.

“I don’t think this has happened consistently anywhere, and especially in countries that are currently experiencing large increases,” Ryan said. “If you know you’ve been in contact with a case, you should be in full quarantine in your home with no contact with other people. “

mike ryan OMS tedros

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (right) speaks with WHO Health Emergencies Program Director Dr Michael Ryan during a press briefing on the COVID-19 at WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 6, 2020.

Fabrice Coffrini / AFP via Getty Images

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a 14-day stay at home for anyone who has been in close contact with others who have tested positive for COVID-19, unless these people have already had virus in the past three months. .

Quarantining prevents people who may unknowingly harbor the virus from passing it on to others. It works so well because if everyone in a community who has the virus stays at home, no one again can catch it and the local outbreak is over.

It’s happened in New Zealand before, it’s happened in South Korea, it’s happened in China, and it could happen in more places too. But it’s not.

“Don’t go to the grocery store” and “don’t socialize with friends”

gloves mask grocery store lockdown stay at home orders

Gary Towler puts on gloves to protect himself against the coronavirus, before entering a grocery store on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in the spring, in Texas.

Photo AP / David J. Phillip

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical officer for COVID-19, said in Monday’s meeting that she had had many friends and family who had asked her in recent days what exactly forty. Essentially, it’s complete isolation from other people, including those you would normally live and breathe with, to the extent possible.

“It means not going to work,” Van Kerkhove said. “It means not going to the grocery store. It means not to socialize with friends. It means not having people in your house. ”

Ideally, quarantine is a disease control measure that is backed by local health programs and government support that can allow people to continue earning a living and feeding their families during quarantine, a- she declared.

But finances and social support aren’t the only hurdles to overcome to achieve proper quarantine in places around the world.

Faster test results are badly needed for quarantine to truly work

Trump Covid test swab

President Donald Trump pretends to take a Covid-19 test while holding a swab during his visit to the Puritan Medical Products facility in Guilford, Maine, June 5, 2020.

Nicholas Kamm / Getty

Much of the reason why it has become so difficult to effectively quarantine people in the United States is that the COVID-19 test results are still too slow to put people on high alert to stay on top. House.

A recent national survey conducted by researchers at Northeastern, Harvard, Northwestern and Rutgers Universities found that the average time for coronavirus lab tests in the United States in September was around 2, 7 days, which is an improvement over the average 4.4 days it takes to get tested. back in March. However, many public health experts, including Bill Gates, agree that test results need to be reliably returned within 24 hours or so in order to actually alert anyone who may have been exposed to the virus properly and to put these back. people in quarantine.

Ryan noted that many Asian countries have had very low numbers of cases for some time, using tests strategically and then crushing local clusters of cases by quarantining close contacts of patients, before those clusters do not extend.

He stressed that success is due, in large part, to the detection of COVID-19 cases, the isolation of cases, “and, in particular, the quarantine of contacts.”

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