World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday warned that the failures of some leaders to stop their countries’ spiraling outbreaks mean there would be no return to normal “for the foreseeable future”. Without taking any names, he said “too many countries are headed in the wrong direction” with the pandemic and some were not taking the proper steps to curb infections.
The director general’s remarks came a day after WHO reported yet another worldwide record of more than 2,30,000 confirmed cases in 24 hours. Ten countries accounted for 80% of the daily tally reported on Sunday. “If the basics aren’t followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go,” said Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It’s going to get worse and worse and worse.”
The WHO chief added that “mixed messages from leaders” were undermining public trust in attempts to bring the pandemic under control. “Let me blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction,” he said. “The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this.”
Adhanom Ghebreyesus said governments should communicate clearer public health messages and individuals should maintain physical distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing and staying home when they have Covid-19 symptoms. “Mixed messages from leaders are undermining the most critical ingredient of any response: trust,” he added.
But the WHO chief acknowledged how difficult it was for governments to respond effectively, given the economic, social and cultural consequences of imposing restrictions. “I am not saying it is easy; it is clearly not,” he added. “I know that many leaders are working in difficult circumstances. I know that there are other health, economic, social and cultural challenges to weigh up.”
The epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic remains in the United States where more than 50% of the world’s cases have been recorded, Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. The US is the worst-affected country from the pandemic in the world. More than 34 lakh people have have tested positive for Covid-19 in the US so far and over 1,37,000 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
However, the WHO further pointed to a sign of hope in countries that had experienced massive outbreaks and tolls but still managed to get the virus under control. The UN health agency said government and individual responses should depend on local conditions and whether there is widespread community spread of the virus.