[Press release – WHO]
An estimated 1.4 million fewer people received care for tuberculosis (TB) in 2020 than in 2019, according to preliminary data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) from over 80 countries- a reduction of 21% from 2019. The countries with the biggest relative gaps were Indonesia (42%), South Africa (41%), Philippines (37%) and India (25%).
“The effects of COVID-19 go far beyond the death and disease caused by the virus itself. The disruption to essential services for people with TB is just one tragic example of the ways the pandemic is disproportionately affecting some of the world’s poorest people, who were already at higher risk for TB,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “These sobering data point to the need for countries to make universal health coverage a key priority as they respond to and recover from the pandemic, to ensure access to essential services for TB and all diseases.”
Building up health systems so everyone can get the services they need is key. Some countries have already taken steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery, by strengthening infection control; expanding use of digital technologies to provide remote advice and support, and providing home-based TB prevention and care.
But many people who have TB are unable to access the care they need. WHO fears that over half a million more people may have died from TB in 2020, simply because they were unable to obtain a diagnosis.
This is not a new problem: before COVID-19 struck, the gap between the estimated number of people developing TB each year and the annual number of people officially reported as diagnosed with TB was about 3 million. The pandemic has greatly exacerbated the situation.
Read full press release on WHO website.