The World Health Organization has stressed that contact-tracing apps and other technology cannot replace old-fashioned “boots-on-the-ground” measures as many countries begin easing lockdowns imposed to curb the new coronavirus.
“We are very, very keen to stress that IT tools do not replace the basic public health workforce that is going to be needed to trace, test, isolate and quarantine,” the WHO’s top emergencies expert, Mike Ryan, told journalists at an online briefing in Geneva.
He stressed the need for “shoe-leather epidemiology” and praised the success of places like South Korea and Singapore for their strategy.
Many countries are easing lockdown restrictions to resurrect economies and contact-tracing apps are expected to play a role in helping identify new cases and contain clusters.
In the same briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the world to unite to defeat the new coronavirus.
“This virus will be with us for a long time and we must come together to develop and share the tools to defeat it,” he said.
“We will prevail through national unity and global solidarity,” he added, praising pledges of US$8 billion from world leaders for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The Geneva-based body will launch this week its updated strategic preparedness and response plan, which will provide an update of its funding needs in order to support the international and national plans to fight the virus, Tedros said.
Ryan said the WHO welcomed recent clinical trial data for Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir drug, saying “there are signals of hope there for the potential use of the drug” in COVID-19 patients.