Five new countries/territories/areas (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Gibraltar, Hungary, Slovenia, and occupied Palestinian territory) have reported cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.
In anticipation for an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, the SouthEast Asia Region is preparing to roll out rapid response activities by engaging with communities, procuring personal protective equipment (PPE), and ensuring laboratories have the capacity to test for COVID-19 or ship samples to global referral laboratories. More information can be found here.
The WHO Director-General emphasized the importance of implementing a comprehensive approach to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Educating the population, expanding surveillance, caring for patients, and strengthening preparedness systems are key to interrupting transmission. The WHO Director-General’s remarks can be found here.
WHO’s initiative called the WHO Network for Information in Epidemics (EPIWIN) leverages all communications platforms to amplify evidence-based information. EPI-WIN has identified trusted sources and engaged with these “trust chains”. More information can be found in the Subject in Focus.
SUBJECT IN FOCUS: INFODEMICS
Infodemics are an excessive amount of information about a problem, which makes it difficult to identify a solution. Infodemics can spread misinformation, disinformation and rumors during a health emergency. Infodemics can hamper an effective public health response and create confusion and distrust among people. To manage infodemics, WHO has developed an innovative communication initiative called the WHO Network for Information in Epidemics (EPI-WIN).
During emergencies demand for information is high, there are often many unknowns and people will seek information from sources and individuals and entities they trust. WHO, through EPI-WIN, has identified such trusted sources and engaged them not only as amplifiers of accurate, timely information, but also as advisers on the kind of information that their constituents need and urgently want to see.
Information exchange takes place through regular engagement calls with these “trust chains”. EPI-WIN leverages all communications platforms available to it and partners with these trusted channels to amplify evidence-based information tailored to different audiences, answering pertinent questions as the event unfolds and linking them to additional response assets.
A “trust chain” with employers and employees – the world of work
Such a “trust chain” has been established around the world of work. Workers spend approximately one-third of their adult lives at work. Because of this, employers and businesses can serve as amplifiers of trusted information about COVID-19 for employees. Employers in both private and public sector are asking how to protect their staff, contractors and customers from COVID-19. Employees associations and trade unions are also seeking information on how WHO policies, guidance and recommendations can be implemented in their workplace settings.
Working with the World Economic Forum, EPI-WIN has established networks with the key business sectors and public enterprises likely to be impacted by COVID-19 and future epidemics. These have been grouped into networks of Healthcare & Health Workers, Travel & Tourism, Food & Agriculture and International Mass Gatherings. Within each network, there are multi-national enterprises, professional associations and UN specialized bodies representing sectors that employ tens of millions of people and account for many billions of dollars in economic activity.
EPI-WIN is also working with WHO’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health and their counterpart; global trade unions through the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s Bureau of Workers Activities (ACTRAV) and the International Trade Union Council (ITUC) which brings together affiliated trade union bodies that represent 210 million workers in 163 countries.
The engagement with trade unions has allowed many concerns to be raised around issues that could impact upon the effectiveness of public health policies and interventions aimed at containing the COVID-19 epidemic. These include issues such as infection prevention and rights of public-facing workers in health, social care and retail sectors; safe staffing levels when sickness absences may lead to fewer workers facing potentially unsafe increases in workload; income protection for those isolated, self-isolating or requiring time off work because of school/transport closures; and discussions with employers on remote working and flexible working patterns. EPI-WIN also works closely with the WHO Health Workforce Department that collaborates with approximately 80 global health worker associations.
This is just one example of a “trust chain”. Others have been developed around healthcare workers, travel and tourism, faith-based organizations, large event organisers and others. Please visit the EPI-WIN website for more information and to view advice.