FILE PHOTO: Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims pray at Imam Ali Shrine after Iraq’s Najaf authorities banned all non-residents visits, following coronavirus outbreak, in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani/File Photo
LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that Middle East states need to offer more information about coronavirus cases to help bolster the fight against the disease across the region.
Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said the regional approach to fighting the coronavirus had so far been “uneven” and that much more should be done.
Improved access to information would allow the WHO to track its spread closely and quickly apply proven public health measures, Mandhari told reporters in a video-conference briefing.
“Unfortunately, even today, as the situation is becoming critical, information on cases is insufficiently communicated by countries to WHO,” Mandhari said.
The WHO had seen efforts to strengthen surveillance, scale up testing and support families who are isolating relatives or in quarantine, he added.
“But much more needs to be done. In most countries we still have time to more rapidly accelerate our efforts.”
Across much of the region outside Iran – which is one of the worst affected countries worldwide – the number of confirmed cases has been relatively low compared to east Asia and Europe but WHO officials fear the real figures could be considerably higher than reported due partly to a lack of testing.
Reporting by Emma Farge and Mahmoud Mourad; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones