Worst of pandemic ‘yet to come’, warns WHO

Updated June 30, 2020

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"We will need even greater stores of resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. — AFP/File
"We will need even greater stores of resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. — AFP/File

GENEVA: Six months since the new coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic is still far from over, the World Health Organisation said on Monday, warning that “the worst is yet to come”.

Reaching the half-year milestone just as the death toll surpassed 500,000 and the number of confirmed infections topped 10 million, the WHO said it was a moment to recommit to the fight to save lives.

“Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world — and our lives — would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing.

“We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over. “Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up. “We’re all in this together, and we’re all in this for the long haul.

“We will need even greater stores of resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead.

“We have already lost so much — but we cannot lose hope.” Tedros also said that the pandemic had brought out the best and worst humanity, citing acts of kindness and solidarity, but also misinformation and the politicisation of the virus.

In an atmosphere of global political division and fractures on a national level, “the worst is yet to come. I’m sorry to say that,” he said. “With this kind of environment and condition, we fear the worst.”

The respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus has been particularly dangerous for the elderly, although other adults and children are also among the 501,000 fatalities and 10.1 million reported cases.

While the overall rate of death has flattened in recent weeks, health experts have expressed concerns about record numbers of new cases in countries like the United States, India and Brazil, as well as new outbreaks in parts of Asia.

More than 4,700 people are dying every 24 hours from Covid-19-linked illness, according to calculations based on an average from June 1 to 27.

That equates to 196 people per hour, or one person every 18 seconds. About one-quarter of all the deaths so far have been in the United States, the data shows. The recent surge in cases has been most pronounced in a handful of Southern and Western states that reopened earlier and more aggressively. US officials on Sunday reported around 44,700 new cases and 508 additional deaths.

Case numbers are also growing swiftly in Latin America, on Sunday surpassing those diagnosed in Europe, making the region the second most affected by the pandemic, after North America.

On the other side of the world, Australian officials were considering reimposing social distancing measures in some regions on Monday after reporting the biggest one-day rise in infections in more than two months.

The first recorded death from the new virus was on Jan. 9, a 61-year-old man from the Chinese city of Wuhan who was a regular shopper at a wet market that has been identified as the source of the outbreak.

In just five months, the Covid-19 death toll has overtaken the number of people who die annually from malaria, one of the most deadly infectious diseases.

The death rate averages out to 78,000 per month, compared with 64,000 Aids-related deaths and 36,000 malaria deaths, according to 2018 figures from the World Health Organisation.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020