The World Health Organization (WHO) told government officials to become role models in observing health and safety protocols because refusing to do so could confuse the public, making it harder to manage virus transmission.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that they continue to remind everyone to wear masks, practice hand hygiene and observe physical distancing.
“We expect leaders to be examples. We want leaders to be models. We want influencers to be models … [T]hey have to set the example,” Tedros said at a briefing in WHO’s headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday.
Tedros was answering a question on how Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s refusal to wear a face mask was affecting the COVID-19 situation in his country.
The WHO chief said Mexico is in “bad shape,” ranking 11th among countries with the highest number of infections.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Palace spokesperson Harry Roque and Senator Manny Pacquiao were criticized over the weekend as images circulated online that people who attended their respective events failed to practice social distancing.
WHO health emergencies program executive director Mike Ryan said government executives and authorities should be role models “in the best way they can” if they want the public to change their behavior.
WHO to gov’t officials: Be role models
“One of the things that have been difficult at times in this overall pandemic response is when we see a dissonance within or between governments regarding what advice is. Populations need very clear, credible, regular communication regarding what to do,” Ryan said.
“No matter what it says on the posters, and no matter what it says in the guidance if that behavior is not being modeled by leaders and influencers, populations get confused and the issue becomes politicized. That helps nobody,” he added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III agreed that there was a “flagrant violation” of the health protocols in Roque’s event in Bantayan, Cebu.
“Don’t continue, don’t start [the event] if you cannot ensure that physical distancing can be observed. It’s just going to raise the risks even more, and therefore a potential surge might be in the offing,” Duque said.