December 8, 2023
Healthcare workers collect the swa sample for the RT-PCR test during Covid-19 screening at Chennai International Airport. File

Healthcare workers collect the swa sample for the RT-PCR test during Covid-19 screening at Chennai International Airport. File
| Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ B

Warning that many countries aren’t testing enough and that new SARS-CoV-2 virus variants may emerge, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, on Wednesday (August 16) said that testing and being vigilant is vital in continuing the fight against COVID-19. 

“We wouldn’t know if the virus is changing, in case we don’t test enough. Testing is vital to see how the virus is evolving,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said. 

The WHO head is in Gujarat as part of the G20 Health Ministers’ meeting to be held from August 17-19. 

“While COVID is now behind us and India did its best during the time, we can expect new and more variants to emerge,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said, speaking during his visit to the Health and Wellness Centre in Adraj Moti village in Gandhinagar.

He also highlighted the need for countries to invest in strengthening their primary healthcare centres, saying that 80% of healthcare needs can be met at the primary centres, and outbreaks can be detected and prevented.

“For any health initiative to work, good primary healthcare system is key. India’s healthcare programme, Ayushman Bharat, is the right investment, and the telemedicine facility is also helping patients,” Dr. Ghebreyesus added. He said that many countries, including high income countries, had been surprised by COVID because they had not invested in primary healthcare. 

India, which assumed the G20 Presidency in December 2022, is currently part of the G20 troika along with Indonesia and Brazil. India’s G20 Presidency marks the first troika of three developing and emerging economies.

Providing details on the summit, a Health Ministry official said that the focus of the G20 Health Ministers’ meeting will be on the three key priorities of the G20’s health track — health emergencies prevention; preparedness and response with a focus on anti-microbial resistance; and one health framework. 

Rajesh Kotecha, Secretary, AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy), speaking about the summit, said that the G20 is a unique opportunity to showcase India’s leadership in the field of traditional medicine. 

“In the last nine years, India has developed eightfold in the field of traditional medicine. By the end of the year, more than 12,500 AYUSH-based health and wellness centres will be functional across the nation, out of which 8,500 are already in place,” Mr. Kotecha said.

The AYUSH Secretary highlighted that the Global Centre on Traditional Medicines in Jamnagar, Gujarat, established by the WHO, is the first such centre in a developing country. He also said that the WHO will convene the Traditional Medicine Global Summit, co-hosted by the Ministry of AYUSH, on August 17-18, in Gandhinagar, which will “explore the role of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine in addressing pressing health challenges and driving progress in global health and sustainable development”. 

Delegates from 19 G20 member countries, 10 invited states, and 22 international organizations will be participating in the 4th Health Working Group meeting in Gandhinagar.


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