More than 25 000 people across the globe have accessed realtime knowledge from World Health Organisation (WHO) experts on how to detect, prevent, respond to and control the new coronavirus in the first 10 days after the launch of an open online training.

The learning team of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme worked with technical experts to quickly develop and publish the online course on 26 January – four days before the 2019-nCoV outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern.

Approximately 3 000 new users have registered for the training every day since its launch, demonstrating the high level of interest in the virus among health professionals and the general public. In addition, more than 200 000 people have viewed the introductory video to the course on YouTube.

The high engagement levels emerged as the international community launched a $675-million preparedness and response plan to fight further spread of the new coronavirus and protect states with weaker health systems.

Download from WHO open learning platform

The free learning resource is available to anyone interested in novel coronavirus on WHO’s open learning platform for emergencies,

The platform was established three years ago with emergencies such as nCoV in mind, in which WHO would need to reach millions of people across the globe with realtime, accessible learning materials.

The online training, entitled “Emerging respiratory viruses, including nCoV: methods for detection, prevention, response and control”, is currently being produced in all official UN languages and Portuguese.

“Our job is to work with technical health experts to package knowledge using adult learning principles, quickly so that it is most useful to health workers and our staff,” says Heini Utunen, who manages OpenWHO for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme (WHE).

“Our online platform – OpenWHO – is already accessed by users from every country on earth, providing more than 60 courses in 21 languages. Delivering training in the local language of responders is really important, especially in an emergency”.

Meanwhile, WHO is convening a global research and innovation forum to mobilise international action in response to the new coronavirus.

Bringing the 2019-nCoV outbreak under control

“Harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing this outbreak under control,” says WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “There are questions we need answers to, and tools we need developed as quickly as possible. WHO is playing an important coordinating role by bringing the scientific community together to identify research priorities and accelerate progress.”

The forum, to be held 11-12 February in Geneva, is organised in collaboration with the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness.

The forum will bring together key players including leading scientists as well as public health agencies, ministries of health and research funders pursuing 2019-nCoV critical animal health and public health research and the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, among other innovations.

Participants will discuss several areas of research, including identifying the source of the virus as well as sharing of biological samples and genetic sequences.

The meeting is expected to produce a global research agenda for the new coronavirus, setting priorities and frameworks that can guide which projects are undertaken first.

Understanding the disease, risks

“Understanding the disease, its reservoirs, transmission and clinical severity and then developing effective counter-measures is critical for the control of the outbreak, to reduce deaths and minimise the economic impact,” says Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist.

This will also fast-track the development and evaluation of effective diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines, while establishing mechanisms for affordable access to vulnerable populations and facilitating community engagement.

Setting clear global research priorities for the novel coronavirus should lead to more efficient investments, high-quality research and synergies among global researchers.

*Article first published by IT-Online

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