The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the COVID19 pandemic might have disrupted the efforts to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) by a decade. The global health agency has reported that a half million people might have lost their lives due to the disease last year. There has been a significant reduction in TB diagnosis and care, said the experts. As per the provisional WHO data derived from 84 countries, nearly 1.4 million fewer people have received medical care for the dreaded disease in 2020 as compared to 2019. All medical resources have been diverted to fight the COVID19 pandemic last year. A WHO report has shown that lockdowns and relocation of health staff and equipment have severely affected essential TB services since the pandemic has started. The report has analyzed the effect of the pandemic on TB diagnosis and mortality rate as well. The data has shown that these 84 countries have reported only 4.9 million cases of TB in 2020 as compared to 6.3 million cases in 2019. The WHO data has revealed that Indonesia has seen the largest shortfall of 42 percent in the diagnosis of the disease. South Africa has seen a 41 percent shortfall. Philippines and India have seen a 37 and 25 percent shortfall in TB detection respectively.
The director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the effects of the COVID19 pandemic have been beyond the death and disease caused by the virus. The disruption of essential services for people who have been dealing with TB is just one of the disastrous instances of the ways the pandemic has unduly has hit the lives of low-income people around the world. People who have been dealing with TB have already been at a higher risk of COVID19. Lucica Ditiu, who is the executive director of the Stop TB Partnership Board, has said that it seems that health officials have lost a lot from what they have achieved so far. She has said that though we have come a long way since the pandemic has started in 2019 and 2020 but we are far behind from where we have planned to be without the COVID19 pandemic. Heath experts not just need to recover the ground they have lost during the pandemic but also need to go beyond that, said the expert. As per the data from India and South Africa, people who have been dealing with TB and COVID19 both are three times higher risk of death as compared to those who are dealing with TB alone. Lucica Ditiu has said that the officials need to tackle both diseases in tandem while considering parallels in potential measures to detect and stop the spread of each disease. She has said that if health officials invest in such kinds of measures they will not facilitate only TB or COVID19, they will be able to help both ailments. It will reinforce health systems to be able to tackle any airborne pandemic diseases in the future.
The executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, Peter Sands has said that the COVID19 pandemic has claimed nearly 1.8 million lives around the world and TB as well might have led to the same number of deaths. He has said that if this disease is not tackled properly, it might lead to another risk to humanity in the future in the form of multidrug-resistant TB. The WHO has said that there is a need for urgent interventions in screening to diagnose the people who might be dealing with TB. The WHO officials have said that the use of molecular rapid diagnostic tests, chest radiography, and TB screening for HIV-positive people should be increased. Joanne Carter, the vice-chairperson of the Stop TB Partnership Board has said that governments should increase the funds despite the strain on budgets to contribute to the effort to eradicate tuberculosis. He has said that health experts cannot choose between fighting the COVID19 and fighting TB. People, health officials, communities, and health systems have been struggling with both these challenges so far. Financial and human resources are crucial to respond to these challenges.