2021 WHO Global Tuberculosis Report communicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the availability of services for people with TB and subsequently has increased the death rate among this social group. The rate of people diagnosed with TB has declined by 18% in the period from 2019 to 2020.
Although the information on the experience of TB patients of COVID-19 infection remains limited, it is expected that due to the specificity of the TB and COVID-19 infections, there will be worse treatment outcomes, especially if anti-tuberculosis treatment is stopped. Additional barriers in accessing TB services, movement restrictions, reduced opening hours of the services, additional expenses for care and travel, fear of stigma and COVID-19 infection per general.
It is important for people with TB to get vaccinated to reduce the risks of developing a more severe form of COVID-19. The WHO guideless clearly specify that anti-TB treatment must be provided for all TB patients, including those in quarantine and those with confirmed COVID-19 disease. Adequate stocks of TB medicines should be provided to all patients to reduce trips to collect medicines.
Additionally, it is recommended for authorities to implement the use of digital health technologies to ensure the access of TB patients to different services and programs. In line with WHO recommendations, technologies like electronic medication monitors and video-supported therapy can help patients complete their TB treatment.