The novel Coronavirus could easily be the gravest global health emergency ever acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO), its director, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has stated. The overall number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide reaches more than 20 million – up by a million in just four days.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared he would reunite the WHO’s emergency committee this week for a review. “When I declared a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January… there were less than 100 cases outside of China, and no deaths,” Dr. Tedros said. This goes to show the considerable problem this virus has caused around the world.
Since 2009, there have been six public health emergencies of international concern (PHEIC) declarations made by the WHO: the 2009 H1N1 (or swine flu) pandemic, the 2014 polio declaration, the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa, the 2015–2016 Zika virus epidemic, the 2018–2020 Kivu Ebola epidemic, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And although the world has made a vast effort in fighting the ongoing coronavirus, there remained “a long hard road ahead of us,” he said.
At the latest conference in Geneva, Switzerland, the WHO also said travel restrictions could not be the long-term solution. Every country would have to do more to reduce the spread by adopting proven strategies such as social distancing and wearing masks. “It is going to be impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future. Economies have to open up; people have to work, trade has to resume,” WHO emergencies program director Mike Ryan said.
However, WHO executives recognized that other lockdowns in countries experiencing renewed outbreaks might be necessary, but suggested they should be as short as possible and confined to as small a geographic area as possible. “The more we understand about the virus, the more surgical we can be in controlling it,” said Mr. Ryan.
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