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WHO warns of ‘new and dangerous phase’ as COVID-19 cases mount

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  The world is entering a new and dangerous phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, as infection rates continue to climb, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.  

More than 150,000 new cases of the disease were reported on Thursday, the highest single daily total so far, most of them in the Americas, though large numbers came from South Asia and the Middle East. Globally, there were nearly 3.4 million cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, including more than 450,000 deaths.  

“The world is in a new and dangerous phase. Many people are understandably fed up with being at home. Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies”, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in a virtual meeting on Friday evening.  

He cautioned that the virus is still spreading fast, it’s still deadly, and most people are still susceptible. Uganda had registered at least 755 cases of the virus by this morning, with slightly over 400 recoveries. 

Dr. Tedros repeated his call for countries and people to remain vigilant against the disease, and to continue efforts focused on containing the disease, including thorough testing and contact tracing.  

Filippo Grandi the UN High Commissioner, who was a guest at the briefing, held on the eve of World Refugee Day, marked on Saturday, revealed that humanitarians initially feared there would be “catastrophic outbreaks” in refugee camps, where it is difficult to practice physical distancing, among other factors.  

So far this has not occurred, he said, although cases of COVID-19 and small outbreaks have been reported. “WHO’s support and technical guidance has been invaluable in guarding against widespread COVID-19 infections in refugee camps,” he said.  

“Because it is WHO…that has provided us, throughout these difficult months, with leadership and technical guidance without which we would not have been able to achieve whatever we have been able to achieve.”  

Globally, nearly 80 million people have fled their homes due to conflict or persecution, according to the latest report by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, which Grandi heads. He told journalists that most refugees actually live in host communities, not camps, some of which have been devastated by the pandemic.  

“I’m thinking of many urban centres in Africa that hosts large refugee populations. I’m thinking of Afghans in Pakistan and Iraq, that live – share facilities and accommodation – with communities that have been impacted very severely by COVID.”

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