The World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday called upon countries in its south-east Asia region to scale up public health infrastructure, rigorously implement social measures and make efforts to accelerate vaccination to prevent another COVID-19 surge. This week, Maldives and Myanmar confirmed the transmission of coronavirus variants of concern. Earlier, variants of concern have been confirmed in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste, the global health body said.
The coronavirus variants of concern along with the opening of economies and societies contributed to the recent surge in cases globally. "We need to continuously strengthen our efforts to test, trace and isolate. Physical distancing, hand hygiene and proper wearing of masks need to be stringently implemented.
"These measures should be in full force and for longer periods in areas reporting more transmissible variants of concerns," said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia. Even as countries scale up vaccination against COVID-19, they need to implement public health and social measures in a tailored and agile manner, she said.
Singh, in a statement, said a risk-based approach is needed for public health and social measures and these measures should be implemented by the lowest administrative level and adjusted to the intensity of transmission and the capacity of health systems.
A number of countries are currently at different phases in the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and are facing varying epidemiological situations. Though the region is now witnessing an overall decline in cases mainly due to a dip in cases in India, in some other nations are still seeing a spike in cases.
"We must not forget that the pandemic is still around and must guard against complacency at any level. We must continue to implement combinations of public health and social measures until globally there is high vaccine coverage among health workers, and high-risk and vulnerable groups," Singh said in the statement.
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