Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks at a press conference after the WHO emergency committee's meeting on the novel coronavirus in China at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Qu)
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)

There will be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and too many countries are still headed in the wrong direction, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday.

“The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a regular briefing on Monday. He noted that mixed messages from leaders are undermining trust, which is the most critical ingredient of any response, while the only aim of the virus is to find people to infect.

Things are going to “get worse and worse and worse,” he warned, unless governments communicate clearly with their citizens and roll out a comprehensive strategy focused on suppressing transmission and saving lives, while populations follow the basic public health principles of physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, coughing etiquette and staying home when sick.

OVID-19 has been gaining its momentum lately. According to the WHO chief, Sunday saw a record of 230,000 cases reported to WHO, of which almost 80 percent were from just 10 countries and about half from just two countries.”But it does not have to be this way,” Dr. Tedros implored, asking every single leader, government and individual “to do their bit to break the chains of COVID-19 transmission and end the collective suffering.”

To control the disease and get on with people’s lives, Dr. Tedros said, three things are required. The first is to focus on reducing mortality and suppressing transmission; the second is to focus on an empowered, engaged community that takes individual behavior measures in the interest of each other.

And the third is a strong government leadership and coordination of comprehensive strategies that are communicated clearly and consistently.

“We weren’t prepared collectively, but we must use all the tools we have to bring this pandemic under control. And we need to do it right now,” he added.

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