(Excerpts) WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best and the worst of humanity, and stressed, “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, six months ago, no one could have imagined “how our world – and our lives – would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus.” He said, “With 10 million cases now and half a million deaths, unless we address the problems we have already identified as WHO, the lack of national unity and lack of global solidarity and the divided world, which is actually helping the virus to spread, as I said in my speech, the worst is yet to come.”
The WHO chief said the in the coming months countries must face the critical question of “how to live with this virus” as the “new normal.” He said many countries implemented “unprecedented” measures to suppress transmission, which slowed the spread of the virus but did not end it.
SOUNDBITE (English) Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“Time after time and country after country, what we have seen is this virus can be suppressed if the governments are serious about the thing, they have to do, their share, and if the community can do its share. So, while doing our best to find a vaccine, which is the right thing to do, our advice from WHO is: We should do everything we can using the tools we have at hand.”
Michael Ryan Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said the disease must be pushed down to the lowest possible level. He said communities have made “a huge sacrifice for that to happen,” adding that public health authorities must put in place the right surveillance measures to take advantage of that and react quickly to any small cluster that appears.
WHO’s COVID-19 Technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said it could be increasingly difficult to apply a comprehensive approach as transmission increases “but it’s not one activity alone.” She said, “It is not contact tracing alone, it is not case finding alone, it is not physical distancing alone. You’ve heard the Director-General, you’ve heard us say this all the time but it’s worth repeating because there tends to be a focus on a particular intervention, but it needs to be all of the above.”
Tedros said WHO will sending a team to China next week in hopes of “understanding how the virus started and what we can do for the future to prepare.”