Asia-Pacific countries should not neglect other health services amid the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Tuesday.
The organisation said that the warning became necessary because the region could face a new crisis if other diseases were left unmanaged.
Takeshi Kasai, WHO’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said this in a briefing at the organisation’s Western Pacific regional office in Manila.
The response to the COVID-19 epidemic should not stop such health services as immunisation and treatment of acute and chronic diseases that affect millions of people in the region, said Kasai.
“If we allow COVID-19 to disrupt immunisation programmes, our region could face a new crisis at a time when health systems are already strained,” he added.
According to Kasai, when vaccination rates go down, infectious diseases that have long been under control or even eliminated can surge or come back, citing new cases of polio and outbreaks of measles in different countries in the region in 2020.
Millions of people also need care and treatment for acute and chronic conditions such as tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases.
“We cannot let the COVID-19 response put their lives at risk by compromising these services,” Kasai said.
He also urged Asia-Pacific governments not to be complacent in efforts to contain the coronavirus.
He said rather, they should think of long-term strategies that would balance the need to protect public health and bring back the economy and social life.
“This is not the time to relax,” he said. “Instead, we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living in the foreseeable future.
“As long as the new coronavirus is circulating, no country is safe from potentially ovearwhelming outbreaks,” Kasai added.
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