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Digital Health Empowering People

-Editorial

Globally, with 9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 400,000 deaths reported to WHO, the pandemic continues to accelerate, with a record number of new coronavirus cases reported on Sunday, with 183,020 confirmed in 24 hours.

Over 2.5 million cases have been reported from Europe. While the European Region is reporting a decreasing proportion of global cases than earlier in the year, the Region continues to report close to 20,000 new cases and over 700 new deaths daily. Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months.

“For weeks I have spoken about the risk of a resurgence as countries adjust measures. In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality – 30 countries/territories have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks. In 11 of these countries/territories (1), accelerated transmission has led to the very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe,” said Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

However, he said countries such as Poland, Germany, Spain, and Israel have responded quickly to dangerous outbreaks of COVID-19 associated with schools, coal mines, and food production settings that have occurred over the past several weeks. Where new clusters of cases appeared, these have been controlled through rapid and targeted interventions.

At the same time, he said, they need to get smarter in using the evidence and the information we have from our COVID-19 surveillance systems to improve the only way we have to minimize transmission: find, isolate, test, and care for every case. Trace and quarantine every contact.

Digital technology and artificial intelligence have also proved to be effective in other aspects of pandemic response. In France, an artificial intelligence-based virtual phone assistant is able to respond to more than a thousand people at the same time. Italy is trialing the use of an AI-based technology that utilizes a smartphone app and camera to capture vital statistics such as heart rate, heart rate variability, oxygen saturation, and respiration rate in real-time. In Sweden, telemedicine has been used to support traditional care, particularly in rural settings, and is now being used for enhanced COVID-19 response.

“Digital technologies have proved to be powerful tools to fight COVID-19. However, these same technologies have exposed us to a tsunami of information and have raised many issues around data protection and privacy,” Dr. Klue said.

 

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