“The worst is yet to come,” WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on a call with reporters from Geneva. “I’m sorry to say that. But with this kind of environment and condition, we fear the worst.”
WHO officials stressed repeatedly on the call that not all countries were combatting the virus with the same levels of success or vigilance. With more than half of the 10 million coronavirus cases to date and almost half of the 500,000 deaths in the Americas, there’s a lot more that both governments and people in overburdened countries like the US and Brazil could be doing to stop this virus.
“We all want this to be over, we all want to get on with our lives, but the hard reality is this is not even close to being over,” Tedros said. “Although many countries have made some progress, globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up.”
Without naming any names, Tedros chided countries for not doing more to stop the spread of the virus as economies reopen.
The virus’ spread “could have been prevented through the tools that we have at hand,” Tedros said. “Time after time and country after country, what we have seen is this virus can be suppressed if the governments are serious about the things they have to do — their share — and if the community can do its share.”
Some countries can ‘pounce on disease’ better than others
WHO applauded previously hard-hit countries, like South Korea and China, and others that dealt with recent recurrences of the virus, including Germany, Singapore, and Japan, adding that coronavirus vigilance requires a concerted effort from both politicians and citizens.
Many of the most successful coronavirus-fighting countries have adopted a multilayered public-health approach allowing them “to pounce on disease” quickly and effectively where it reemerges, said Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.
“What you have to do is push the disease down to the lowest possible level,” he said, stressing that in addition to more nationwide testing and tracing and good public-health surveillance systems, the most successful strategies relied on diligent citizens who stay home when coronavirus transmission is widespread.
“Communities have made a huge sacrifice for that to happen,” Ryan said. “They’re staying at home. They’re staying away from their families. They’ve contributed tremendously to suppressing infection.”