Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Nearly six months after the new coronavirus first emerged, the COVID-19 pandemic is “not even close to being over”, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned.
Speaking on the eve of the grim milestone, Dr Tedros called for renewed global commitment to save lives as cases surpass 10 million worldwide, with 500,000 deaths. He said that although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up.
“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, and we’re all in this for the long haul,” he told journalists in a virtual briefing last night.
Dr Tedros underlined five priorities countries must focus on now to save lives. They include empowering people to protect themselves through physical distancing and other public health measures, but also through sharing reliable information about COVID-19.
He said ggovernments must continue to work to suppress virus transmission, ensuring tracing and quarantining of contacts. They must also prioritize early identification and clinical care, paying particular attention to high-risk groups such as the elderly and those living in long-term care.
“The critical question that all countries will face in the coming months is how to live with this virus”, he said. “That is the new normal.” Dr Tedros also emphasized the need for accelerated research, saying there is still much to learn about the new coronavirus.
WHO is convening a meeting this week to assess progress and re-evaluate research priorities for the next stage of the pandemic. Later, responding to a journalist’s question, he said the agency also plans to dispatch a team to China next week ahead of a meeting on the zoonotic source of the virus.
WHO has also published an updated timeline on its actions since 31 December 2019, which is when it first learned about a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China.
The response includes educating health workers through online portals, transporting plane loads of tests and protective equipment to health workers in developing countries, and launching a solidarity trial to find medicines to defeat the virus.