GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The World Health Organization warns COVID-19 is continuing to accelerate globally at breathtaking speed but says basic public health measures – if followed -- can control its spread and turn the pandemic around.
The number of coronavirus cases globally has roughly doubled in the past six weeks. More than 16 million cases of the virus have been reported to the World Health Organization, including more than 640,000 deaths.
The Americas is the most seriously affected region, with the United States topping the number of infections at more than four million cases and over 143,000 deaths.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said many lessons have been learned since the pandemic was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30.
The most important, he says, is that those countries that have applied basic health measures are containing the virus. He said finding, isolating, testing and tracing contacts as well as social distancing and wearing masks can suppress transmission and save lives.
“Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up. Countries and communities that have followed this advice carefully and consistently have done well,” he said.
Tedros said countries such as Cambodia, New Zealand, Rwanda and Thailand have succeeded in preventing large-scale outbreaks by following this advice. He said other countries, including Canada, China, and Germany have brought large outbreaks under control by applying these basic measures.
Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies Mike Ryan said countries that have implemented control measures have suppressed the virus but when those measures are lifted, the virus returns.
“What is clear is that pressure on the virus successfully pushes the numbers down, release pressure on the virus and the numbers can creep back up…Every single country where pressure has been lifted on the virus, where the virus is still at the community level, there has been a jump back in cases,” he said.
WHO officials agree that continuing transmission of COVID-19 and its resurgence in countries where it had been controlled is worrying. However, they say countries can turn the pandemic around by maintaining pressure on the virus.