WHO says virus fight is still far from over

2020-04-23 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download
Special: Battle Against Novel Coronavirus

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday there is still a long way to go in the battle against COVID-19 disease, as the number of global cases approached 2.5 million and the death toll exceeded 160,000.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said different trends are occurring in different regions, and even within regions.

According to the WHO, most of the outbreaks in Western Europe appear to be stable or declining, but there are worrying upward trends in Africa, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe, although the numbers are currently low.

Meanwhile, most countries are still in the early stages of their epidemics, and some that were affected early in the pandemic are now starting to see a resurgence in cases.

"Make no mistake: we have a long way to go," Tedros said. "This virus will be with us for a long time."

Singapore, which handled the pandemic well in past months, is one of the places that has seen a resurgence. Its Health Ministry confirmed on Wednesday another 1,016 cases of COVID-19, taking the total infections in the nation to 10,141, according to the Reuters news agency.

Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, announced on Tuesday that the nation would extend a partial lockdown until June 1.

Tedros said stay-at-home orders and other physical distancing measures have successfully suppressed transmission in many countries.

"But this virus remains extremely dangerous," he said. "Early evidence suggests most of the world's population remains susceptible. That means epidemics can easily re-ignite."

The WHO chief warned against "complacency" and noted that he understands that people in countries with stay-at-home orders are becoming frustrated with being confined to their homes for weeks on end. He said they want to get on with their lives and protect their livelihoods.

"But the world will not and cannot go back to the way things were," Tedros said. "There must be a 'new normal' – a world that is healthier, safer and better prepared."

The WHO recommends that the same public health measures it has been advocating since the beginning of the pandemic must remain the backbone of the response in all countries. These include finding every case, isolating every case, testing every case, caring for every case, and tracing and quarantining every contact.

Several European Union countries are moving toward easing restrictions.

Belgium is devising a lockdown exit strategy that might partially relax some restrictions on shopping, socializing, and outdoor activities from May 3, Politico reported on Wednesday.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday that Italy wants to start gradually easing out of its lockdown from May 4, according to the Brussels Times.

Conte is confident that there will be a detailed phase-out plan "before the end of this week". Italy's lockdown measures include travel restrictions and a ban on public gatherings.

Conte said the phase-out plan will be applied on a national scale but will take into account regional differences.


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