Over 12m cases globally
Figures double in 6 months
Panel reviews global response
Ex-New Zealand PM, former Liberian President Sirleaf co-chair inquiry
With infection figures doubling in the past six weeks, Head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that Coronavirus outbreaks are not under control in most countries of the world.
Insisting that the pandemic is still accelerating globally, Ghebreyesus noted that the deadly virus has not yet reached its peak
His bleak assessment of the trajectory of coronavirus pandemic came following announcement that the UN body was setting up an independent panel to review its response and that of governments.
This is against the backdrop that confirmed cases worldwide are currently going over the 12 million mark
Appearing to brush a tear away at one point as he spoke, Tedros underlined the shortcomings that have occurred in the responses of many countries.
“We know that when countries take a comprehensive approach based on fundamental public health measures … the COVID-19 outbreak can be brought under control,” the WHO Chief said.
According to him; “But in most of the world, the virus is not under control. It is getting worse … more than 544,000 lives have been lost. The pandemic is still accelerating. The total number of cases has doubled in the last six weeks.”
Ghebreyesus’ warning was delivered as the United States posted yet another daily record for new confirmed cases, totalling 59,000, and the Head of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said the pandemic was reaching “full speed” on the continent.
There have also been rises in cases in countries that begun loosening lockdown measures, including Australia, Israel and Spain.
Last weekend, the United Kingdom loosened its restrictions, allowing pubs, restaurants and bars to reopen if they adhered to public health guidelines.
WHO Endures Tumultuous Week
On Tuesday, July 7, 2020, the President Donald Trump administration gave a formal one-year notice of its intent to withdraw the US from the World Health body.
The official communication follows months of sniping by Trump and some of his senior officials, who are themselves under fire for their botched handling of the outbreak in the US.
The US is the WHO’s biggest donor, contributing $400m (£315m) to $500m annually. But President Trump has accused the body of mishandling the pandemic and of being a “puppet” of China.
Although Tedros did not refer to the US decision, he did criticise the shortcomings exposed by the international response to the pandemic, in comments that could be interpreted as critical of Trump’s “America first” agenda.
“The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself,” he said. “Rather, it’s the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national level. We cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world. The virus thrives on division but is thwarted when we unite.”
On Thursday, WHO released new guidelines on the transmission of the virus, after more than 200 scientists accused it of underestimating the possibility of transmission via tiny droplets, or aerosols, suspended in the air.
Previously, WHO had said that the virus was spread through droplets when people cough or sneeze. The new guidelines acknowledge some reports of aerosol transmission.
The newly created Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response will be co-chaired by Helen Clark, a former Prime minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Nobel peace prize laureate and former President of Liberia, whom Tedros described as “strong minded and independent leaders”.
While experts were quick to welcome the role of two highly respected former Heads of state rather than academics and international health experts, some insisted that the panel’s full makeup would be crucial in reassuring critics.
Describing the pandemic as a “decisive moment in recent history”, Tedros said it had “taken the world hostage” as he lamented the inability of global community to unite around a common response.
“How is it difficult for humans to unite to fight a common enemy that’s killing people indiscriminately?
“Together is the solution, unless we want to give the advantage the enemy, to the virus that has taken the world hostage – and this has to stop”, he said