New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) With more than 480 confirmed cases and at least eight deaths reported from South East Asia, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday called for an urgent scale-up of aggressive measures to combat COVID-19 in the region.

WHO South East Asia Region’s Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said that emergency measures will have to be triggered if community transmission sets in.

Looking at the numbers, some countries are clearly heading towards community transmission of COVID-19, she said, adding that this should best be prevented.

Eight of the 11 countries comprising the WHO’s South-East Asia Region have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Such cases in Thailand are 177, Indonesia 134, India 126, Sri Lanka 19, Maldives 13, Bangladesh 5, Nepal and Bhutan one each. These numbers are increasing quickly.

“More clusters of virus transmission are being confirmed. While this is an indication of an alert and effective surveillance, it also puts the spotlight on the need for more aggressive and society efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19. We clearly need to do more, and urgently,” the official said.

However, if community transmission does set in, countries would need to gear up their responses to slow down the transmission, as well as end outbreaks.

Emergency mechanism would then need to be further scaled up. A network of health facilities and hospitals for triage and surge would need to be activated to avoid overcrowding.

Of critical importance are continued efforts to detect, test, treat, isolate and trace contacts.

Singh reiterated that simple public health measures such as hand hygiene, social distancing and covering mouth when coughing and sneezing, remain critical in controlling the transmission of COVID-19.

–IANS

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