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Catch-up, ‘get ahead and stay ahead’ of coronavirus, urges UN health agency chief

A masked man walking in London's West End
IMF Photo/Jeff Moore
A masked man walking in London's West End

Catch-up, ‘get ahead and stay ahead’ of coronavirus, urges UN health agency chief


Global COVID-19 cases spiked to their highest level yet during last week, with many northern hemisphere countries seeing “a concerning rise in cases and hospitalizations”, the UN health agency chief said on Monday, urging countries to “get ahead and stay ahead” of the virus. 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), informed journalists that “intensive care units are filling up to capacity in some places, particularly in Europe and North America”. 

Meanwhile over the weekend, numerous world leaders re-evaluated their situation, the UN health agency chief noted, and “took action to limit the spread of the virus”.

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No one wants lockdowns

He conceded that many across the world are experiencing mental and physical “pandemic fatigue” but underscored the need to stand strong.

“No one wants more so-called lockdowns”, he acknowledged, urging leaders to “balance the disruption to lives and livelihoods with the need to protect health workers and health systems as intensive care fills up”.

He spoke emphatically about the stress and trauma health workers face on the frontlines, facing a fresh wave of patients and underscored the need to protect them.

“The best way to do that is for all of us to take every precaution we can to reduce the risk of transmission, for ourselves and others”, said the UN official. 

Pandemic: ‘Everyone’s business’

Battling the pandemic is “everyone’s business”, Tedros asserted, adding that “we all have to play our part”.

To keep our children in school, businesses open and lives and livelihoods preserved, he stressed that “trade-offs, compromises and sacrifices” must be made.

That translates to, among other things, people staying at home, maintaining physical distance and wearing masks while governments must break transmission chains, test, isolate and care for cases, in addition to contact tracing and supporting quarantines.

“With these measures, you can catch-up to this virus, you can get ahead of this virus, and you can stay ahead of this virus”, the WHO chief maintained. “We say this because we have seen many places around the world get ahead and stay ahead of the virus”.

No magic solutions

Underscoring the need for hard work from leaders at all levels of societies, health workers, contact tracers and individuals, the UN health official attested that when leaders act “quickly and deliberately”, COVID-19 can be stemmed.

“Science continues to tell us the truth about this virus…how to contain it, suppress it and stop it from returning, and how to save lives among those it reaches”, he spelled out, noting that many countries and cities that have successfully “followed the science”.

Stop the politicization of COVID-19 -- WHO chief

Keep politics out of it

Political divisions; blatant disrespect for science and health professionals; and spreading deliberate confusion, have caused cases and deaths to mount, according to the WHO chief. 

“This is why I have said repeatedly: Stop the politicization of COVID-19”, he warned. “A pandemic is not a political football. Wishful thinking or deliberate diversion will not prevent transmissions or save lives”.

What will save lives however is “science, solutions and solidarity”, Tedros stressed.