The Covid-19 pandemic is in a critical phase, the WHO said April 12, warning cases were surging exponentially as it urged people to respect measures proven to rein in the virus.
The World Health Organization pointed out that after cases and deaths declined at the beginning of the year, the global situation had worsened dramatically in recent weeks.
“We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, told a press conference. “The trajectory of this pandemic is growing. It is growing exponentially,” she warned.
The novel coronavirus has killed some 2.94 million of the around 136 million people infected since it first surfaced in China in late 2019.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that at a global level, “we have now seen seven consecutive weeks of increasing cases, and four weeks of increasing deaths.”
Last week saw “the fourth highest number of cases in a single week so far.”
Global case numbers swelled by 9% last week, while deaths were up 5%, Van Kerkhove said.
The latest surge comes despite the fact that vaccines against COVID-19 are being rapidly rolled out in many countries, with more than 780 million doses administered so far.
While vaccines were an important weapon in the battle to halt the pandemic, Tedros stressed they were by far not the only tool.
“Physical distancing works. Masks work. Hand hygiene works. Ventilation works. Surveillance, testing, contact tracing, isolation, supportive quarantine and compassionate care—they all work to stop infections and save lives,” he said.
“But confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures and their application are driving transmission and costing lives,” he warned.
Van Kerkhove also voiced despair that the fresh surge in cases was coming this far into the crisis. “This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, when we have proven control measures,” she said.
Tedros insisted that “WHO does not want endless lockdowns,” pointing out that the “countries that have done best have taken a tailored, measured, agile and evidence-based combination of measures.”
“We too want to see societies and economies reopening, and travel and trade resuming,” he said, but warned that “right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing. People are dying, and it is totally avoidable.”
The UN health agency chief acknowledged that the pandemic was “a long way from over,” but stressed there were reasons for optimism.
“The decline in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped,” Tedros said.
“With a concerted effort to apply public health measures alongside equitable vaccination, we could bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months.” (AFP)