WHO warns pandemic far from over

Agence France-Presse . Geneva | Published: 10:41, Jun 30,2020 | Updated: 00:38, Jul 01,2020


World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference, that follows the social distancing rules, after a meeting about the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, on June 25, 2020.- AFP photo

Six months on from the novel coronavirus outbreak, the WHO said Monday it was sending a team to China to work towards finding the source — as it warned the pandemic was far from over.

And the World Health Organisation warned that in an atmosphere of global division and politicisation of the COVID-19 crisis, it feared the worst was yet to come.

The UN health agency lamented the ‘very tragic’ milestones of 5,00,000 deaths and 10 million confirmed infections being reached, just as it marks on Tuesday six months since it was first informed of the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The WHO is sending a team to China next week in connection with the search for the origin of the virus that sparked the global pandemic.

The organisation has been pressing China since early May to invite in its experts to help investigate the animal origins of the coronavirus.

‘We can fight the virus better when we know everything about the virus, including how it started,’ WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference.

‘We will be sending a team next week to China to prepare for that and we hope that that will lead into understanding how the virus started.’

He did not specify the make-up of the team, nor what specifically their mission would consist of.

Scientists believe the virus jumped from animals to humans, possibly from a market in Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat.

‘Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world — and our lives — would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,’ said Tedros. ‘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.

‘Globally the pandemic is actually speeding up.

‘We’re all in this together, and we’re all in this for the long haul.

‘We have already lost so much — but we cannot lose hope.’

Tedros also said that the pandemic had brought out the best and worst humanity, citing acts of kindness and solidarity, but also misinformation and the politicisation of the virus. Unless international unity replaces fractious division, ‘the worst is yet to come. I’m sorry to say that,’ he said.

‘With this kind of environment and condition, we fear the worst.’

While the world races to find safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics against COVID-19, Tedros said countries such as South Korea had shown that the virus could be successfully suppressed and controlled without them.

He said governments needed to be ‘serious’ about measures such as contact tracing, and citizens had to take responsibility for personal steps such as maintaining hand hygiene.

Reflecting on the global death toll and infection numbers, Tedros said: ‘Still, this could have been prevented through the tools we have at hand.’

He added: ‘The critical question that all countries will face in the coming months is how to live with this virus. That is the new normal.’

The United States is the worst-hit country with 1,26,141 deaths from 25,90,582 cases. At least 7,05,203 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 58,314 deaths from 13,68,195 cases, the United Kingdom with 43,575 deaths from 3,11,965 cases, Italy with 34,744 deaths from 2,40,436 cases, and France with 29,813 deaths from 2,00,667 cases.

China has to date declared 83,531 cases (19 new since Monday), including 4,634 deaths and 78,469 recoveries.

Europe overall has 1,96,686 deaths from 26,94,400 cases, the United States and Canada 1,34,751 deaths from 26,70,500 infections, Latin America and the Caribbean 1,13,933 deaths from 25,30,877 cases, Asia 34,338 deaths from 12,76,020 cases, Middle East 15,968 deaths from 7,46,780 cases, Africa 9,843 deaths from 3,94,503 cases, and Oceania 133 deaths from 9,328 cases.

More than 40 per cent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in one Italian town showed no signs of being ill, according to research published in the journal Nature, indicating asymptomatic carriers may be significant spreaders of the virus.

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