JAKARTA, Indonesia: The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that while attention has shifted to epicenters in Western Europe and North America, Covid-19 pandemic is “far from over” in The Asia-Pacific region.
Urging governments at all levels in the region to stay engaged in efforts to combat the virus, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, Dr. Takeshi Kasai said, “This is going to be a long-term battle, and we cannot let down our guard. We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation.”
He said there was no one-size-fits-all approach but there were common tactics. “Those are: finding, isolating and testing cases early, tracing and quarantining contact quickly and putting in place multiple public health interventions to place physical distance between people to slow and stop transmission.”
Takeshi also cautioned that countries still need to prepare for large-scale community transmission.
“We need to be clear that even with all of these measures, the risk will not go away as long as the pandemic continues. Rather, these measures can buy us valuable time to prepare,” he said.
In the Philippines, the WHO said the coronavirus disease would peak after the quarantine period.
The country reported 538 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total 2,084. The death toll rose to 88.
WHO Philippine Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe lauded the government for imposing a lockdown early, saying this gave Manila more time to “flatten the curve.”
But he said that the lockdown was not the solution. “It just gives time for countries to prepare for upsurge of cases to help flatten the curve,” he explained.
“For the lockdown to be ultimately successful, we need the people to cooperate. That means ensuring every effort to maintain physical distancing at individual level, within the household, within the community and making the effort to protect the most vulnerable in our community,” Abeyasinghe said.
“But when will the peak happen? That is very unpredictable. It certainly is not going to happen before the 12th of April,” he added.
Meanwhile, Japan has extended its highest travel warnings to 49 countries, including the United States, Canada and Britain, as well as all China and South Korea.
The country urged Japanese citizens not to visit places where coronavirus infections are escalating, the foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday. The ministry also said returnees and visitors from those nations would be tested for the virus at airports when they arrive and requested to self-quarantine at home or designated facilities for 14 days.
Japan now has about 2,700 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 67 deaths.
In South Korea, children will start the new school year at home beginning next week as schools prepare to move classes online in the face of the coronavirus threat.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Tuesday said authorities were finalizing plans to begin online classes at some schools on April 9 before expanding further.
He also said the country would have to reschedule college admission processes to ease disruption for high school seniors.
WITH JOHN ERIC MENDOZA