GENEVA, Switzerland (UN News) — A new awareness-raising campaign, led by the world’s top football stars, called ‘Pass the message to kick out coronavirus’, was launched on Monday by the UN health agency, WHO, and international football’s governing body, FIFA.
The campaign involves a video featuring many of the biggest names in football (soccer to those in the US), including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, and former England team captain, and World Cup semi-finalist, Gary Lineker.
FIFA president Gianni Infanti, said that the organization is calling on everyone to follow the WHO’s five key steps to stop the spread of the disease, focusing on handwashing, coughing etiquette, not touching your face, social distancing, and staying home if you feel unwell.
During his Monday press briefing, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that, since its launch just four days ago, the agency’s WhatsApp Health Alert messaging service, has already attracted some 10 million users. The service delivers reliable, accurate health information directly to users’ mobile phones.
Anyone who has Whatsapp on their mobile phone can subscribe by texting “hi”, to +41 22 501 76 55.
They will then receive a message from the UN health agency, inviting them to request further information on a range of coronavirus-related topics, including how to protect yourself from infection, travel advice, and latest news.
The service can send out replies to questions about coronavirus, 24 hours a day, and is designed to service government decision-makers by providing the latest WHO numbers and situation reports.
Currently sending out information in English, the free service will be launched in Arabic, French and Spanish-language versions later this week. Chinese and Russian versions are also being planned. To find out how to sign up, go to whatsapp.com/coronavirus/who.
On the subject of treatments for COVID-19, Tedros reminded reporters that no treatment has so far been proven to be effective. The WHO chief noted that using untested medicines, without the right evidence, could raise false hopes, and even do more harm than good, in the short term.
“Small, observational and non-randomized studies will not give us the answers we need”, he said, adding that the use of untested treatments could also cause a shortage of essential medicines that are needed to treat other diseases.
Updating the press on the latest COVID-19 case figures, Tedros said that the pandemic is accelerating: whilst it took 67 days from the first reported case to the first 100,000 cases, it took 11 days to reach 200,000, and just four days for 300,000 cases to be reported.
However, the WHO chief insisted that “we are not prisoners to statistics”, and that it is still possible to change the trajectory of the pandemic – by flattening the curve – adhering more closely to the agency’s guidance, particularly by testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, and tracing and quarantining every close contact.
Recognizing that some countries are finding it hard to carry out such measures, Tedros expressed his gratitude for the efforts that several nations have made, to send Emergency Medical Teams to care for patients and train health workers in countries that need support. “This is an incredible example of international solidarity”, he said.