The World Health Organization says leaders who take tough action and persuade their citizens to embrace new and difficult measures to control the spread of the coronavirus will succeed in crushing this deadly disease.
The assessment comes as health officials are bracing for another grim landmark this week as the number of global COVID-19 cases is expected to reach 20 million, including 750,000 deaths. Despite the sobering news, the WHO’s director-general sees what he calls green shoots of hope.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says a number of countries in different regions of the world were able to suppress the virus early on.
“New Zealand is seen as a global exemplar. And, over the weekend, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern celebrated 100 days with no community transmission, while stressing the need to remain cautious. Rwanda’s progress is due to a similar combination of strong leadership, universal health coverage, well supported health workers and clear public health communications,” he said.
Tedros said countries that have invested in rapid case identification, comprehensive contact tracing and adequate clinical care for patients have succeeded in breaking the chains of transmission. He said those that have suppressed the virus effectively can safely open up their societies.
“Invest in the basics of public health and we can save both lives and livelihoods. In the countries that have done this successfully, they are using a risk-based approach to reopen segments of societies, including schools. And, as they do so, they must remain vigilant for potential clusters of the virus,” he said.
Tedros said everyone wants to see children go back to the classroom. However, he warned against re-opening schools hastily, without assurances that children, staff and faculty will be safe.
Until effective treatment and safe, effective vaccines are available, the WHO chief said the best way countries can protect their people from COVID-19 is to implement basic health measures. These include social distancing, wearing masks, and practicing good hygiene.
He added that countries that succeed in suppressing the virus, can gradually and safely get their economies moving again.