Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID – 19): WHO Update (13 July 2020)

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “too many countries are headed in the wrong direction” in the fight against COVID-19 and stressed that “mixed messages from leaders are undermining the most critical ingredient of any response: trust.”

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva today (13 Jul) Tedros said the virus remains “public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this.” He said the only aim of the virus is to find people to infect.

SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“If the basics aren’t followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go. It’s going to get worse and worse and worse. But it does not have to be this way. Every single leader, every single government and every single person can do their bit to break off chains of transmission and end the collective suffering.”

Tedros noted that there are no shortcuts out of the COVID-19 pandemic. He added, “We all hope there will be an effective vaccine, but we need to focus on using the tools we have now to suppress transmission and save lives. We need to reach a sustainable situation where we have adequate control of this virus without shutting down our lives entirely.”

The Director- General also highlighted the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World which was published today. The report estimated that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019. Tedros said, “While it’s too soon to assess the full impact of COVID-19, the report estimates that 130 million more people may face chronic hunger by the end of this year.”

The Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, Michael Ryan , said if people continue to frequent crowded places without taking the necessary precautions, don’t practice physical distancing, don’t practice proper hygiene, and don’t wear masks in the proper settings, “then the disease will continue to transmit.”

SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Michael Ryan Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
“We need to learn to live with this virus. Expecting that we will eradicate or eliminate this virus in the coming months is not realistic. And also, believing that magically we will get a perfect vaccine that everyone will have access to is also not realistic.”

Asking about a WHO mission to China, Ryan said the preliminary mission consists of two of WHO’s “best scientists” joining the country team and Chinese scientists and would not be carrying out direct field investigations. He said the mission’s objective is to “understand what has been discovered already, what has been studied already, what the data that’s available; and then, from that to lay out what further studies need to be carried out and what international experts will be useful in engaging with and partnering with Chinese colleagues in order to do that.”

The Executive Director said there are “real issues around how schools can be reopened safely, but the best and safest way to reopen schools is in the context of low community transmission that has been effectively suppressed by a broad-based comprehensive strategy.” He added, “We can’t move from ‘let’s deal with the schools’ and then we all deal with that for a week or two, and then ‘let’s deal with the workplace’, or then ‘let’s deal with infection in hospitals or long-term care facilities.’ This is playing Whack-a-mole. We have got focus on a comprehensive long-term strategy that focuses on everything at one time.”