WHO publishes guidelines to maintain essential healthcare amidst COVID-19 pandemic

DPI, Guyana, Monday, March 30, 2020

As the world continues to battle the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has published guidelines to help countries balance their response to the virus while maintaining the delivery of essential healthcare services.

Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in an update earlier today noted that the virus has placed a strain on the health systems around the world with the increasing demand for health services.


Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“Previous outbreaks have demonstrated that when health systems are overwhelmed, deaths due to vaccine-preventable and treatable conditions increase dramatically,” he expressed further emphasizing that even in the middle of a global crisis, essential health services must continue,” Dr. Ghebreyesus stated.

“Babies are still being born, vaccines must still be delivered, and people still need life-saving treatment for a range of other diseases,” He added.

According to the WHO Director-General, the guidelines include “a set of targetted, immediate actions to reorganise and maintain access to high-quality essential health services, including routine vaccination; care during pregnancy and childbirth; treatment for infectious and noncommunicable diseases and mental health conditions; blood services, and more.”

This he explained includes ensuring an adequate health workforce to deal with the many health needs other than COVID-19. It will help countries manage the rise in COVID-19 cases while maintaining essential services.

The WHO has also published a detailed, practical manual on how to establish and manage treatment centres for COVID-19. This guide covers three major interventions:

    • how to set up screening and triage at health facilities, using a repurposed building or a tent.
    • how to set up community facilities to care for mild patients;
    • how to set up a treatment centre, by repurposing hospital wards or entire hospitals, or by setting up a new hospital in a tent.

Dr. Ghebreyesus underscored that in addition to having adequate health facilities, the viability of supplies of diagnostics, protective equipment and other medical supplies in a country, is vital in the fight against this pandemic.

The Director-General called for increased production and free movement of essential health products along with equitable distribution of those products, based on need with specific attention being paid to low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.