Burnet Institute Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC has warned that the broader health impacts of the fight against COVID-19, particularly among developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, could be as serious as the virus itself.
A study published in The Lancet has found that efforts to combat endemic diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and malaria could be derailed as resources and plans to counter COVID-19 are prioritised across the developing world.
“In developing countries, in circumstances of crisis, the indirect effects are far worse than the direct effects. There’s no doubt that will be the case with COVID-19,” Professor Crabb told The Guardian.
While infection rates and the death toll remain relatively low in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases from nine two weeks ago to 63 today, and Professor Crabb believes it will take ‘a small miracle’ to keep the lid on.
“If you have a system that is already running at capacity, already stretched, any sort of assault on that system, an economic assault or a disease like COVID, it becomes impossible to deliver what you were,” Professor Crabb said.
Professor Crabb said he expects the focus on COVID-19 to have an impact on sexual and reproductive health services, child and maternal health services, and treatment for gender-based and family violence.
“We have systems that are incredibly fragile, and anything that comes in to upset those systems, like COVID, is not only bad in and of itself, but will have a knock-on effect onto the health system more generally. We will see those situations get dramatically worse,” he said.
Professor Crabb said Australia has a responsibility to assist its Asia-Pacific neighbours to address the pandemic and protect them from the prospect of heightened suffering and poverty.
Read The Guardian article in full here.