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WHO warns that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating as countries facilitate blocking rules

World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 28, 2020.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating worldwide as many countries that have reopened their economies see a renaissance in Covid-1

9 cases, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, on Monday.

“Although many countries have made some progress globally, the pandemic is indeed accelerating,” he said during a virtual press conference from the Geneva agency’s headquarters. “We all want it to end. We all want to move on with our lives, but the hard reality is that this isn’t even close to the end.”

The virus has infected over 10.1 million people worldwide and has so far killed over 502,000 people, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. More than 60% of the new daily cases came from the Americas on Sunday, according to data published by the WHO.

More than 23% of 189,077 new cases reported worldwide on Sunday were from the United States, according to WHO data. Brazil was the only country in the world to report more new cases on Sunday than the United States, according to WHO.

“Some countries have undergone a resurgence of cases as they begin to reopen their economies and societies,” said Tedros. “Most people remain susceptible. The virus still has a lot of room to move.”

The United States is among the countries that are experiencing a resurgence of infection after the reopening of commercial activities and the easing of restrictions in large areas of the country. New cases have increased in several states across the nation, setting new records almost every day, driven primarily by the expansion of the outbreaks in the American south and west. Florida, Texas, California and Arizona are just a few of the states that reported record counts of new daily cases last week.

While cases in the United States have continued to increase, the average age of patients has decreased, according to state officials in Florida, Texas and elsewhere. Some state officials say that is why Covid-19 deaths have declined although cases increase as the virus is more fatal in older populations. However, several health officials, including the White House health consultant, dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned that deaths will increase over time, especially when younger patients infect older and more vulnerable people.

The continued strategy of extensively testing the virus, investigating infections, identifying people who may have been exposed, isolating infected people and improving patient care will save lives, said Tedros.

“The most important intervention to break the transmission chains is not necessarily highly technological and can be done by a wide range of professionals. It is about tracing and quarantining contacts,” he said. “Six months after the virus started, it could be like a broken record saying exactly the same thing, but the same thing works. Testing, testing, isolating, quarantining cases.”

Tedros specifically cited dexamethasone, an inexpensive and widely available steroid, as an example of how doctors learned to provide better care for patients with Covid-19 and save lives. University of Oxford researchers published the results of their studies earlier this month which have shown that the steroid can reduce the risk of death by one third for Covid-19 patients with ventilators and one fifth for those with supplemental oxygen.

Japan has done an excellent job of preserving life and protecting the most vulnerable members of society, said Tedros. Japan has one of the oldest populations in the world, he said, but has kept one of the lowest Covid-19 mortality rates. The virus has infected over 18,476 people in Japan, according to Hopkins data, and killed at least 972 people.

South Korea is another example of a positive response, said Tedros, adding that “South Korea has shown the world that without even vaccines or therapies, it is possible to reduce the number of cases and eliminate the epidemic”.

South Korea was among the first countries outside of China to be affected by the virus. Government officials quickly accelerated the tests and directed them to people who may have been exposed to known groups of infection. Government officials used credit card transaction data and cell phone tracking information to identify who could have been exposed to the virus.

Tedros said some governments should consider replicating South Korea’s strategy for testing, tracing contacts and isolating infected people. He added that governments should involve the community in all efforts to speed up testing, traceability and isolation.

Countries must come together to learn from each other’s experiences in fighting the virus, said Tedros, stressing that the “lack of global solidarity” has hampered the global response.

“The worst is yet to come” as many nations and world leaders remain divided over how to fight the virus, Tedros said. “I’m sorry to say it, but with this type of environment and condition, we fear the worst. And that’s why we have to combine our actions and fight this dangerous virus together.”

– CNBC Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.

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