A patient in a biocontainment unit is carried on a stretcher from an ambulance arrived at the Columbus Covid 2 Hospital in Rome, March 17, 2020.
A patient in a biocontainment unit is carried on a stretcher from an ambulance arrived at the Columbus Covid 2 Hospital in Rome, March 17, 2020.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The World Health Organization is urging governments to implement a comprehensive, aggressive approach in tackling COVID-19, to slow down the rapidly increasing number of cases and deaths from this dangerous new virus in Europe and other parts of the world.

The largest number of cases and deaths from coronavirus are still being reported from the Western Pacific region, which includes China. But Europe is running a close second and now has a larger cumulative number of confirmed infections and deaths than all other regions combined.

The World Health Organization says it is difficult to nail down any one factor or particular scenario behind this surge of cases in Europe. WHO spokesman, Christian Lindmeier told VOA his agency has been warning for weeks that this novel virus would grab-hold and continue spreading with relentless speed around the world.

“At the same time, when you have a large spike of cases, either because they have been undetected for a while, or because of an unfortunate incident where a large group of people gets infected at one time, then you reach capacity problems and this is what many European countries seem to be struggling right now," he said.

Lindmeier explains many countries were unprepared to test, treat, and track those infected when the virus struck. He said many still lack the capacity to implement these important measures. He said the lack of medical equipment, tests, personnel, hospital beds, ventilators and other essential items is a global problem.

A growing number of countries are resorting to draconian measures such as self-isolation, social distancing, and travel bans to curb the spread of COVID-19. Lindmeier said government authorities have to decide for themselves on the policies they believe will work best for their societies.

A police officer walks in the empty Trocadero square in Paris, France, March 18, 2020. President Emmanuel Macron said that for 15 days starting at noon on March 17, people will be allowed to leave the place they live only for necessary activities.

But he notes both China and Singapore, which employed very strict medical, social and political measures have seen dramatic declines in coronavirus cases and deaths.

“The examples we have seen so far show us that drastic cuts or drastic limitations in social life of the populations…together with an aggressive testing, tracking and treating of patients and their contacts has worked,” he said.

WHO spokesman Lindmeier said it is too early to know whether the drastic measures being employed by Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland and other countries are paying off. He said the global pandemic will get worse before it gets better.

He warns people will have to brace themselves for many more infections and deaths before the pandemic peaks.

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