The World Health Organisation on Wednesday warned that most countries were still in the early stages of tackling the coronavirus pandemic and that the infection will persist for a long time to come.

There were “worrying upward trends” in early epidemics in parts of Africa, Central and South America and Eastern Europe, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in a virtual briefing.

“Most countries are still in the early stages of their epidemics and some that were affected early in the pandemic are starting to see a resurgence in cases,” he added. “Make no mistake: we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time.”

Tedros said while social distancing measures put in place in numerous countries to slow the spread of the coronavirus have been successful, the virus still remains “extremely dangerous”. “Early evidence suggests most of the world’s population remains susceptible,” he added. “That means epidemics can easily re-ignite.”

The health organisation further said that the world will not and cannot go back to the way things were before the epidemic.

“People in countries with stay-at-home orders are understandably frustrated with being confined to their homes for weeks on end,” Tedros said. “People understandably want to get on with their lives, because their lives and livelihoods are at stake. That’s what WHO wants too. And that’s what we are working for, all day, every day. There must be a “new normal” – a world that is healthier, safer and better prepared.”

Last week, United States President Donald Trump had criticised the health body’s handling of the pandemic and announced he was suspending funding to the UN agency. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the United States strongly believed that China’s ruling Communist Party failed to report the outbreak of the new coronavirus in a timely manner to WHO.

“I hope the freezing of the funding will be reconsidered and the US will once again support WHO’s work and continue to save lives,” Tedros said, according to Reuters. “I hope the US believes that this an important investment, not just to help others but for the US to stay safe also.”

He also said that the health agency declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global emergency early enough and that the announcement was made when there were fewer than 100 cases outside China, where the virus was first detected late last year. “Looking back, I think we declared the emergency at the right time” on January 30, Tedros said, adding that the world “had enough time to respond”.

The organisation’s emergencies expert Mike Ryan warned against opening up global travel too quickly, saying it would require “careful risk management”.

The worldwide toll from the coronavirus pandemic crossed 1,83,280 and more than 2,626,920 declared cases have been registered in 185 countries and territories, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

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