WHO tells gov’t execs to become role models
MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged government officials to ensure that they observe the exact guidelines they expect their constituents to follow as not doing so would only confuse the public and make it harder for them to effectively control the spread of the new coronavirus.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out that time and again they have reminded that to reduce the number of infections, it’s important to wear masks, practice hand hygiene and observe physical distancing.
“We expect leaders to be examples. We want leaders to be models. We want influencers to be models … [T]hey have to set the example,” Tedros said at a briefing in WHO’s headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday.
Refusal to wear mask
The WHO chief was responding to a query on how Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s refusal to wear a mask was affecting the COVID-19 situation in his country. Tedros said Mexico, the 11th country with the highest number of infections, was in “bad shape” due to the doubling in the past weeks of its new cases and deaths.
Incidentally, in the Philippines, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and Sen. Manny Pacquiao were assailed over the weekend as photos circulated online showing packed crowds in their respective events, in violation of the government’s distancing protocol.
According to WHO health emergencies program executive director Mike Ryan, it’s very important that if the public is expected to change their behavior to help address the pandemic, those in a position of authority and influence should try to model those behaviors “in the best way they can.”
Populations get confused
“One of the things that has been difficult at times in this overall pandemic response is when we see a dissonance within or between governments regarding what advice is. Populations need very clear, credible, regular communication regarding what to do,” Ryan said.
“No matter what it says on the posters and no matter what it says in the guidance, if that behavior is not being modeled by leaders and influencers, populations get confused and the issue becomes politicized. That helps nobody,” he added.In a televised interview, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III agreed that there was “flagrant violation” of the government’s health protocols in Roque’s event in Bantayan, Cebu.
Although the packed crowd wore masks and face shields in the open-air event, the health chief said that in outdoor activities such as the one Roque had, it’s “always better to be conservative and err on the side of caution.”
“Don’t continue, don’t start [the event] if you cannot ensure that physical distancing can be observed. It’s just going to raise the risks even more and therefore a potential surge might be in the offing,” Duque said.
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