The head of the World Health Organization says the worst is yet to come in the coronavirus pandemic even as some countries take baby steps back toward normalcy.
“Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday. “Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.”
He compared the coronavirus outbreak, which worldwide has sickened nearly 2.5 million people and killed more than 170,000, to the 1918 Spanish flu that killed as many as 100 million worldwide. But he said that such a dire outcome does not have to occur.
“Now we have technology, we can prevent that disaster, we can prevent that kind of crisis,” Tedros said.
He also defended the WHO against President Donald Trump’s accusations that the agency failed to adequately and transparently share information about COVID-19 in the early days if the outbreak in China in December.
Trump has halted U.S. funding to the WHO. Washington had been the agency’s biggest donor.
“There is no secret in WHO because keeping things confidential or secret is dangerous. It’s a health issue,” Tedros said Monday.
Meanwhile, the Republican governors of three states — Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee — announced plans Monday to ease lockdowns and allow some businesses to reopen.
Georgia’s Brian Kemp said gyms, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, and barber and beauty shops can unlock their doors starting Friday and restaurants and movie theaters next week.
There have been protests in a number of U.S. capitals, mainly made up of Trump supporters saying the shutdowns, demands to wear face coverings, and social distancing violate their constitutional rights.
Trump has said some of the governors have gone too far with the restrictions and that states will soon reopen for business even though many medical authorities say it is too soon.
A new poll by Yahoo News / YouGov says 60% of Americans oppose the anti-lockdown protesters.
Several countries eased their coronavirus restrictions Monday and allowed some small businesses to reopen. They include Germany, Serbia and Albania.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the lockdown will be immediately reimposed if the coronavirus erupts again.
Norwegian students returned to school Monday and some students in Denmark returned Wednesday. Sri Lanka plans to lift some lockdown restrictions Wednesday.
U.S. health officials say they will start publicly sharing information on infections and deaths at nursing homes where, according to the Associated Press, nearly 8,500 patients have died from coronavirus.
Residents and their families will be informed of cases and the facilities will have to report directly to federal officials.
"It's fair to say nursing homes have been ground zero," White House task force member Seema Verma says. An outbreak in one nursing home near Seattle killed 43 people and for a while was the COVID-19 epicenter.
Experts say nursing homes are struggling with a shortage of staff and victims becoming infected with coronavirus without showing any symptoms.
Federal officials are also keeping a close eye on Massachusetts, where the number of coronavirus cases is expected to double in less than a week.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has criticized people who have been ignoring stay-at-home recommendations to play golf and soccer or hang out with friends.
He told CNN they are "not understanding the severity of what's happening here in this country and in Boston, in Massachusetts."
The city has sent trucks with loudspeakers through some Boston neighborhoods to remind people, about social distancing and hand washing.
New Yorkers will have to do without free performances of the Bard of Avon this summer. The city has canceled its annual Shakespeare in the Park festival for the first time in 58 years because of the coronavirus
“This is something I mightily resisted,” Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, which founded and runs the festival, said in an interview. “But it’s just clear to us at this point that there’s no way we can responsibly prepare, build and rehearse to get shows open in a timing that might match the quarantine’s timing.”
Among the shows canceled are free performances at the Central Park amphitheater of “Richard III” and “As You Like It.”