A woman undergoes a PCR test for the novel coronavirus at a control post in the municipality of Renca, Santiago, on Monday. AFP
The Geneva-based body has frequently warned about other life-saving programmes being impacted by the pandemic and has sent countries mitigation advice, but the survey yielded the first WHO data so far on the scale of disruptions.
"The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on essential health services is a source of great concern," said a report on the study released on Monday.
"Major health gains achieved over the past two decades can be wiped out in a short period of time..."
The survey includes responses from between May and July from more than 100 countries. Among the most affected services were routine immunisations (70%), family planning (68%) and cancer diagnosis and treatment (55%), while emergency services were disturbed in almost a quarter of responding countries.
The Eastern Mediterranean Region, which includes Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, was most affected followed by the African and Southeast Asian regions, it showed. The Americas was not part of the survey.
Since COVID-19 cases were first identified in December last year, the virus is thought to have killed nearly 850,000 people, the latest Reuters tally showed.
Researchers think that non-COVID deaths have also increased in some places due partly to health service disruptions, although these may be harder to calculate.
The WHO survey said it was "reasonable to anticipate that even a modest disruption in essential health services could lead to an increase in morbidity and mortality from causes other than COVID-19 in the short to medium and long-term." Further research was needed.
It also warned that the disruptions could be felt even after the pandemic ends. "The impact may be felt beyond the immediate pandemic as, in trying to catch up on services, countries may find that resources are overwhelmed."Agencies
"There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from #COVID19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection," WHO said in a statement.
World leaders must not politicise the coronavirus pandemic but unite to fight it, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Monday, reminding all that the pandemic is still accelerating and producing record daily increases in infections.
More than 8.53 million people have been reported infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 453,834 have died, a Reuters tally showed as of 1326 GMT on Friday.
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