Just when the World Health Organisation (WHO) thought that the Ebola virus epidemic would come to an end, a fresh case of the fatal virus was detected in the city of Beni in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Friday, April 10. This is the first case of the Ebola virus disease in the Central African country since February.
The epidemic, which has claimed more than 2,200 lives since August 2018, was to be declared over on Monday, April 13.
"Unfortunately, this means the government of DRC will not be able to declare an end to the Ebola outbreak on Monday, as hoped," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO.
Beni's situation has a takeaway for COVID-19 fight
Considered to be the epicenter of the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, the city of Beni went nearly 40 days without reporting any new case. The criteria set by the WHO to declare an epidemic to be over required the eastern city of the DRC to remain Ebola-free for 42 days.
The ordeal of Beni could help the rest of the world to be better prepared to tackle the novel coronavirus pandemic. As per WHO's emergency chief Mike Ryan, the return of Ebola to the DRC proves that no exit strategy would work until the COVID-19 situation has been brought under complete control.
What this means is that the WHO and all coronavirus-hit countries must not at any given point assume that they have won over the 'invisible enemy'. Stringent measures need to remain in place until the COVID-19 cases die down fully. And even when the situation seems to be getting normal, everybody should be prepared for a possible outbreak at any time.
"You must always be ready to start again. Never be surprised," Ryan said.
At present, the most effective measure that people could undertake to not get exposed to the deadly disease is social distancing. Scientists and medical experts from different parts of the world have been advocating it for months now.
Coronavirus wreaking havoc around the globe
The outbreak that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year has now spread all over the world, bringing more than 50 percent of the humankind to a standstill.
In the absence of a vaccine, most of the countries have imposed a lockdown in hope to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The WHO data shows that the global number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is headed towards the 2 million mark, whereas, the death toll has crossed 1 lakh.