The coronavirus epidemic is the severest emergency declared by World Health Organization (WHO), according to the organisation’s leader.
The statement by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus ahead of WHO’s emergency committee meeting on Friday, July 31, for a fourth to assess the pandemic.
Following the meeting Dr Tedros said that coronavirus does mean that life has to stop and that people should learn to live with the virus.
He has ranked coronavirus above the five other global health emergencies, the two outbreaks of Ebola, Zika and polio as well as swine flu.
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Globally over 16 million people have been diagnosed with coronavirus since the outbreak in January, with more than 650,000 deaths.
Dr Tedros said: “When I declared a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January… there were less than 100 cases outside of China, and no deaths. Covid-19 has changed our world. It has brought people, communities and nations together, and driven them apart.”
He said that the number of people with the condition had roughly doubled over the six weeks.
Dr Tedros said although major efforts had been made around the world to combat coronavirus, there was still a “long hard road ahead of us”.
Political leadership and community engagement were the two vital pillars of the response to the global pandemic, Dr Tedros said.
He said: “Almost 10 million cases, or two-thirds of all cases globally, are from 10 countries, and almost half of all cases reported so far are from just three countries.”
Travel restrictions only provide a short-term solution and should not be the long-term answer, the WHO said.
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Governments had to do more to stop the spread in their countries by using strategies proven to work, including social distancing and facemasks.
WHO emergencies programme director Mike Ryan said: “It is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future. Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume.”
More lockdowns in countries experiencing spikes in the virus may be necessary, but should be as short as possible in as small an area as possible, WHO officials have said.
Mr Ryan added: “The more we understand about the virus, the more surgical we can be in controlling it.”