Invest more in healthcare to combat Covid, say health leaders

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New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) The 73rd Regional Committee Session of WHO South-East Asia Region began on Wednesday, with health leaders emphasizing on greater investments for strengthening health systems and continued efforts and collaboration for combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Covid-19 pandemic underscores that the world is a global village where all lives are intertwined. To win, we must collaborate and fight as one. In order to protect our health gains, we must continuously invest in health. Our region needs to invest more and more in public healthcare and build a robust health delivery system,” said India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, while opening the proceedings as Chair of the previous year’s Session.
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, said the pandemic demonstrates interconnectedness of all Sustainable Development Goals.
“All sectors, public and private are collaborating. This is really unprecedented. While we fight our common enemy Covid-19, we see so many social innovations and solidarity.”
Charnvirakul is chairing the annual governing body meeting of WHO in the region with Thailand hosting the session this year. The two-day session is being held virtually for the first time ever in view of the pandemic.
Addressing the session, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Covid-19 is causing so much pain, sorrow and uncertainty. But it is also giving us an opportunity. The whole world can now see that health is an essential investment in safer, healthier, fairer and more sustainable societies.”
Countries now need to focus on four priorities, he said. First, prevent amplifying events. Second, save lives by protecting the vulnerable. Third, empower and educate people and communities to protect themselves and others and fourth, focus on the public health basics – find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine their cases.
WHO’s Regional Director, South-East Asia Region, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said that “greater investment in public health would help achieve better health outcomes, promote sustainable development and a more equitable and just society”.
“For over nine months now, countries have acted with speed, scale and solidarity to respond to the Covid-19 crisis that has affected all of humanity and impacted social and economic life like no event in living memory. While determined efforts have helped save countless lives, ongoing commitment is needed to save many more lives,” she said.
Emphasizing on solidarity and cooperation, she said this has defined their work for many years now, and has been central to the response thus far.
All speakers commended the selfless efforts being made by millions of health workers across the world in the pandemic.
On day two of the Session, a ministerial round table will be held to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts being made to maintain essential health services and accelerate resumption of healthcare services disrupted by the pandemic.

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