Countries need consistent messaging for public, not ‘Covid-19 political football,’ WHO says after Trump remarks
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Commenting on contradictory remarks by the US president and health officials, the World Health Organization’s top emergency expert, Mike Ryan, said it is important for all states to have “consistent messaging” for their public.

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, in testimony to a congressional committee, said that general availability of a vaccine could come by “late second quarter, third quarter 2021” and masks might be more effective.

President Donald Trump took exception to the comments on Wednesday, saying he believes a vaccine will be rolled out much sooner. Trump told reporters he called Redfield after his testimony to question him about it. “I think he made a mistake when he said that,” Trump said of Redfield’s testimony. “I don’t think he means that. When he said it, I believe he was confused.”

In response to a question about the exchange, the WHO’s Ryan said it’s important that “we have consistent messaging from all levels, and it’s not for one country or one entity; consistent messaging between science and between government.”

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The science around the coronavirus is “complicated stuff,” Ryan said, with data and new evidence evolving. “So it isn’t easy, and it isn’t easy for everyone to be on message all of the time,” he added.

“What is important is that governments, scientific institutions, step back, review the evidence, and give the most comprehensive easy-to-understand-and-digest information so that people can take the appropriate action,” said Ryan, a veteran of Ebola outbreaks in Africa and other epidemics.

Authorities must engage with communities to address anxieties, he noted. “It’s understanding their concern… And not laughing at it and not turning that into some kind of political football.”

The WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said a comprehensive package of measures including physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus is recommended. “Masks are part of it,” she said.

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