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)

The coronavirus pandemic is worsening, due largely to failures outside of Europe and parts of Asia. But World Health Organization director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says it’s not too late to get in the fight.

Without calling out anyone or any place by name, Ghebreyesus said some countries were responsible in their handling of the outbreak and are getting back to business safely.

He also said several countries are going in the wrong direction. There are different scenarios playing out worldwide, the WHO director said at a press conference in London.

“The first situation is countries that were alert and aware,” Ghebreyesus said. “They prepared and responded rapidly and effectively to the first cases.”

He said the Mekong region, the Pacific, the Caribbean and parts of Africa fell into that category. The doctor also credited much of Europe, where “strong leadership” following an initial outbreak helped manage a situation that could have been worse.

Then there were the other two categories. Another situation playing out is in countries that initially reacted to the outbreak then began pushing to reopen too soon.

A final situation is “those countries that are in the intense transmission phase of their outbreak,” he said. “We’re seeing those across the Americas, South Asia and several countries in Africa.”

He called the Americas the “epicenter of the virus,” noting that more than half of the world’s cases have been discovered. According to Ghebreyesus, the Western Hemisphere should look east for guidance.

“We know from the first two situations that it is never too late to bring the virus under control, even if there has been explosive transmission,” he said.

WHO believes that even in places where numbers are spiking, putting reopening restrictions back in place will help combat the deadly virus. Ghebreyesus made clear that WHO is “committed to working with all countries” to end the global scourge that has infected nearly 13 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“Let me be blunt,” Ghebreyesus said, after again emphasizing the importance of steady leadership. “Too many countries are headed in the wrong direction. The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this.”

He blamed “mixed messages” from some world leaders for undermining the efforts of the global community and
“It does not have to be this way,” Ghebreyesus said, calling on “every single leader, every single government and every single person” to do their part.

The U.S. notified the United Nations last week of the Trump administration’s intention to leave the WHO. The U.S. owed WHO nearly 200 million dollars in unpaid membership dues going into July, according to NPR.

President Donald Trump has accused WHO of being slow to react as well as showing favoritism to China, where coronavirus is believed to have begun.

Trump, too, has been targeted for his handling of the pandemic, by critics at home and abroad.
An ABC News poll published last week shows 67 per cent of Americans disapprove of the president’s response to the pandemic.

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