July 15, 2020

COVID-19: Prioritise saving of lives, avoid politics, scientists urge Commonwealth countries

NigCOVID-19: Prioritise saving of lives, avoid politics, scientists urge Commonwealth countrieseria records 463 new COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths

By Chioma Obinna

Six months into COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have urged Nigeria and the rest of the Commonwealth countries to prioritise saving of lives and to use the opportunity to prepare for future global pandemic or outbreak.

The scientists also warned countries to stop politicisation COVID-19 pandemic and begin to reduce mortality and empower communities.

The scientists made the assertions during the first in a series of webinar lined up by the Commonwealth Medical Association, CMA, entitled: “Regional Perspectives on Clinical Case Management of COVID-19; Current Realities, Best Practices, and Challenges” to address critical issues on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his address at the webinar subscribed by over 1,600 registered participants from over 42 countries of the world, Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director, Emergencies Programme, the World Health Organisation, WHO, regretted the politicisation of the virus.

Ryain said much attention has been focused on research to provide vaccines which will be vital to preventing and treating COVID-19, but that there is much the world can do to save lives and “this must be the focus for all countries”.

HE said: “We can do so much right now to reduce mortality, empower our communities, and provide better, clearer and more consistent governance and coordination to drive a well-coordinated, managed multi-sectoral and political leadership to respond to the pandemic.”

He, however, acknowledged that the challenge with any emerging disease was the lack of proven countermeasures, such as therapeutic drugs.

“Accelerating research is essential to finding those life-saving antiviral drugs and treatment for this pandemic,” WHO’s DG said.

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Noting that complication of the disease can be very difficult to manage, he said doing the basics such as early detection of patient— whether moderate or developing complications— early application of intervention to reduce mortality, coping with the interventions and other forms of care interventions in the ICU to reduce second re-complication in terms of care was very essential.

He stressed the need for international collaboration between medical associations during the pandemic.

“To show solidarity in the face of a common threat is something that we all strive for. We, unfortunately, exist in the world today with those values threatened and the values of solidarity, empathy are under threat and pressure,” he stated.

Commonwealth scribe speaks

At the webinar chaired by the former Chief Medical Director of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Prof Akin Osibogun, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Nations, Mrs Patricia Scotland, who commended  WHO for what they have been able to achieve in such a terrible time, lamented the loss of lives to the pandemic.

Scotland said sacrifices of health workers and that of those who loved them have been great, but the debt the society owes them must never be forgotten.

“We need approaches to help our well-being. We need goodwill, mutual support, knowledge and sharing of resources, so the input of ideas of those represented and convened by the CMA is critical if we are to understand or fully respond more effectively to the disease.”

Scotland urged the scientists to make their voices heard as their experiences from day to day interaction with patients and challenges would shape policies and planning interventions.

Speaking, Secretary-General of the World Medical Association, WMA, Otmar Kloiber, urged physicians not to limit themselves with the containment of the virus but take advantage of the era to prepare for the next global outbreak.

According to him, it was time for medical doctors around the world to bring the loose threads of their clinical learning for the first six months of the pandemic.

He further urged scientists to work together and take the opportunity to improve, get better, get new clinical insight to learn the path of physiology as a team, “ranging from the biologist to the epidemiologist, the public health specialist, the critical care specialist and the family physician.

“As comity of physicians, we have to address some very difficult questions; this has not been the hour of international solidarity. Despite the efforts of the WHO which we all have to praise, this has been a time of political egoism, nationalism.”

“The virus has shown us that the borders do not matter, actually it has been more international than we have been and that should give us now the task to be better prepared to learn not only for COVID-19. This world cannot survive if everyone thinks more about themselves and their country.”


On his part, convener of the webinar and President CMA, Dr Osahon Enabulele acknowledged that the global community was facing one of the greatest afflictions in the last 100 years.

Lamenting that the Commonwealth accounts for over 15 per cent of the world confirmed cases of COVID-19, he said CMA has made several interventions along the various pillars of the containment efforts.

Osahon explained that the webinar series was part of the interventional efforts, particularly, as it concerns patients care, safety, protection and motivation of healthcare workers across the region.

He said the webinar was focused on clinical case management of COVID-19 with the presentation of various regional perspectives aimed at collating experiences and knowledge possibly driving by a consensus framework that would guide clinical case management in the Commonwealth.

His words: “We are aware that some countries have been devising several approaches but we believe that as Commonwealth that it is time to connect and engage people, share experiences and knowledge and hopefully develop a consensus framework going forward.”

“Apart from patient care, we have also paid due attention to the very issue of welfare  and the wellbeing of our toiling health workers who are working very hard for patients all over the world and ensuring those affected are treated.

“While we pray for those who are affected to get well, we commiserate with families of health workers who have lost their lives while taking care of those affected with COVID-19 and other illnesses.”

Speaking, an infectious diseases expert and Professor of Paediatrics, University of Toronto, Prof. Upton Allen, in his presentation on COVID-19 in Canada stressed the need for appropriate messaging to restore public trust.

Allen, who said there was the need for education for adequate coverage of the disease regretted that communities are very skeptical about the messaging from the scientists and the politicians.

“There is a need to work on messaging to ensure that the communities have the same messages,” he added.

Other key speakers at the webinar included Dr. Abimbola Bowale of the Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos, who spoke on “Regional Perspective on Clinical Case Management of COVID-19: The Lagos Experience.”

Others are Professor Celia Christie-Samuels, who spoke on COVID-19 in the Caribbean: Clinical Case Management; Dr. Menelas Nkeshimana, a consultant physician in internal medicine from Rwanda and Dr. Dhrva Chaudry, senior professor and head Pulmonary and critical care medicine, India among others.