Health, livelihood equally important in Covid-19 battle, says WHO

The World Health Organization says people should not have to choose between health and livelihood as the Covid-19 pandemic takes its toll among nations. (AP pic)

PETALING JAYA: The World Health Organization (WHO) today said people should not have to choose between health and livelihood, as the Covid-19 pandemic infects more people worldwide.

Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said both were important.

In a virtual briefing on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Asia, he said the health sector should sit down with the business and economic sector to ensure both sectors were looked into.

He said the question as to whether life or livelihood was more important was not the right question.

“It is a false dichotomy,” he said, adding that communities needed to look at improving their economy and health simultaneously.

Kasai said that in the past five months, the virus had infected 4.35 million people and caused almost 300,000 deaths and that healthcare workers had also been infected by the virus.

Without any lockdown, these figures would have been bigger, he said.

On easing movement, he said there was no one right fix that would fit all nations.

“We have to do it in a cautious way,” he said, with effective measures to curb any spread.

On a possible second wave of infections, Kasai said as long as the virus was circulating in our interconnected world, everyone remained at risk unless a vaccine was found.

“Every country that lifts the lockdown needs to be vigilant and prepare for a large scale outbreak,” he said.

Asked why the death rate in some countries was lower than in others, Kasai said there was a common approach in Asia to detect cases early and to isolate them.

“They have had public health interventions and movement controls relatively early,” he said.

He said the approach was due to the bitter experience from the 2003 SARS outbreak.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, executive director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) secretariat, said some developing countries could still grow due to domestic demand and the recovery of the manufacturing supply chain, especially in China.

But she said the economy among Apec nations was expected to contract by 2.7% with some level of unemployment.

“Economic activities are almost still at standstill,” Sta Maria said.

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