By Faranak Bakhtiari

Let’s build a partnership against epidemics

December 25, 2020 - 21:29

TEHRAN – Today that newly-emerging infections are inevitable, as exemplified by the ongoing coronavirus posing devastating impacts on human lives, social and economic development; preparation is the most, if not the only, important way in face of new epidemics.

Global health crises threaten to overwhelm already overstretched health systems, disrupt global supply chains, and cause disproportionate devastation of the livelihoods of people, including women and children, and the economies of the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

In the event of the absence of international attention, future epidemics could surpass previous outbreaks in terms of intensity and gravity. There is a great need of raising awareness, the exchange of information, scientific knowledge and best practices, quality education, and advocacy programs on epidemics at the local, national, regional, and global levels as effective measures to prevent and respond to epidemics.

It is important to strengthen epidemic prevention by applying lessons learned on epidemic management and how to prevent the stoppage of basic services, and to raise the level of preparedness in order to have the earliest and most adequate response to any epidemic that may arise, and recognizing also the value of an integrated One Health approach that fosters the integration of human health, animal health, and plant health, as well as environmental and other relevant sectors.

International cooperation and multilateralism play an important role in the response to epidemics. We need to stress the significance of partnership and solidarity among every individual, community, and State, and regional and international organizations, in all stages of epidemic management, as well as the importance of considering a gender perspective in this regard.

We need to recognize the primary role and responsibility of Governments and the indispensable contribution of relevant stakeholders in tackling global health challenges, especially women, who make up the majority of the world’s health workers.

The UN General Assembly observes the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness annually on December 27 through education and awareness-raising activities, in order to highlight the importance of the prevention of, preparedness for, and partnership against epidemics.

Iran's fight against global pandemic

With the outbreak of coronavirus, Iran surged its production to meet the country’s need for self-protective equipment along with medical and pharmaceutical items to fight against the virus.

Iran is one of the top five manufacturers of coronavirus antigen-based rapid detection kits in the world; as homegrown antibody rapid test, which can detect coronavirus in 15 to 20 minutes, was unveiled in Tehran on November 17.

Sourena Sattari, vice president for science and technology, told the Tehran Times in September that some of the knowledge-based companies reached a production capacity of more than 200-300 thousand diagnostic kits per day, which surpassed the country’s need for diagnostic kits, and there is a great export potential.

Pointing out that multiplying the production of COVID-19 equipment led to significant measures that led to foreign currency saving for the country, he said “it also helped us cope with problems and not to run out of equipment because no matter how much money we gave, no country had the equipment to sell.”

He also announced that two types of diagnostic kits are now mass-produced by knowledge-based companies, first one is the RT-PCR tests, 8 million of which are being produced per month; while the other is serology-based tests that a total of 400,000 are being manufactured monthly and is expected to reach up to 2 million.

At present, 40 advanced ventilators are manufactured daily in the medical equipment sector, he explained.

Knowledge-based companies can produce any medicine effective in countering coronavirus or approved by the scientific committee within a week to 10 days, he noted.

Mehdi Kashmiri, director for technology and planning at the science ministry, said in July that about 450 knowledge-based companies were active in the country for manufacturing protective equipment and treatment products to fight the coronavirus.

Production of more than one million face masks per day, production of more than 1.5 liters of disinfectants per day, diagnostic kits, non-contact thermometers, protective clothing, ventilator are among the produces manufactured by these companies, he added.

Iranian-made innovative products in the field of diagnosis, screening, and fighting coronavirus were also unveiled to combat the disease, namely, ozone generator, nanotechnology face shields, disinfection gate, and molecular COVID-19 diagnostic kits.

Volunteer efforts in light of pandemic

In the fight against coronavirus, the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS), Basij along with the Ministry of Health and other responsible organizations, has undertaken important activities, from rapid diagnosis and screening to providing medical services and shelter, but the most important activity of this population has been informing the public about healthcare and treatment.

Since the onset of the outbreak, more than 980 voluntary plans and projects to contain the epidemic has been implemented across the country, with 72,694 volunteers participating in the implementation of these projects, Karim Hemmati, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society said in May.

The first phase of public donations was allocated to provide health and essential items for the deprived and unprivileged areas, and besides, 500,000 patients suffering special diseases were provided with essential health items, he stated.

Through the second phase, the IRCS, to provide medical items for COVID-19 patients in hospitals, purchased 100 ventilators worth approximately 160 billion rials (around $3.8 million), 52 devices have been provided with the help of charities and public participation, he added.

With the efforts of the Basij, a national plan named after martyr Qassem Soleimani so far the decreased transmission chain of the disease by 50 percent.

Martyr Soleimani's plan is being implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, Basij, and the Red Crescent Society, through which volunteer forces provide information, testing, diagnosis, referral of suspects to health centers, and offer services by visiting people’s homes.

Some 22,530 monitoring teams have been formed within the framework of the plan since December 15 with 103,000 members, of which more than 270,000 are in contact to identify COVID-19 patients, said Jafar Sadeq-Tabrizi, head of the Network Management Center of the Ministry of Health.

Some 6,730 home care teams have been formed in the country with the participation of 18,000 forces, who have taken care of 41,000 people at home, and rapid result tests have been performed on 7,500 suspects, he explained.

Since December 15, with the participation of 61,000 people, more than 10,000 monitoring teams have been formed. About 782,000 visits and monitoring of various places and centers have been 

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