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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

WHO warns COVID-19 pandemic accelerating, urges international cooperation … reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

The global coronavirus pandemic was accelerating, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, who urged the international community to pull together to tackle the outbreak.

“It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases,” Efe news quoted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying at a daily press briefing on Monday.

As of Tuesday, a total of 381,499 coronavirus cases have been detected globally, with 16,557 deaths, according to John Hopkins University. At least 101,794 people have recovered.

But despite the pandemic’s rapid growth, Tedros remained optimistic that the situation can be reversed.

“We’re not prisoners to statistics,” he said. “We’re not helpless. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic.”

Tedros was speaking at a press conference, at which the WHO announced that it has teamed up with international football organization FIFA to launch a COVID-19 awareness campaign with five key steps to help stop the spread of the disease.

ROSH HAAYIN, March 15, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Local residents wearing face masks purchase daily necessities at a supermarket in the central Israeli city of Rosh Haayin, March 14, 2020. So far, 193 coronavirus cases have been reported in Israel, of whom four have recovered. (JINI/Handout via Xinhua/IANS) by .
Local residents wearing face masks purchase daily necessities at a supermarket. (JINI/Handout via Xinhua/IANS)

While he praised the efforts made and measures taken by national and local governments so far, including urging people to stay at home and practice social distancing, he said: “You can’t win a football game only by defending – you have to attack as well.

“Asking people to stay at home and other physical distancing measures are an important way of slowing down the spread of the virus and buying time. “But they are defensive measures (…) To win, we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics.”

He praised countries for mobilizing their resources and sending emergency medical teams and supplies to help other crisis-hit nations, and urged the WHO’s partners and nations around the world to “rationalise and prioritize” the use of personal protective equipment and cooperate to ease these issues.

“Addressing the global shortage of these life saving tools means addressing every part of the supply chain, from raw materials to finished products,” Tedros continued.

“Measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus may have the unintended consequence of exacerbating shortages of essential protective gear and the material needed to make them.

“Solving this problem requires political commitment and coordination at a global level.”

The WHO will be holding meetings with G20 leaders to ask them to work together to “increase production, avoid export bans and ensure equity of distribution on the basis of need”, he added.

“Commitment at the G20 level means a very strong solidarity that can help us move forward and fight this pandemic in the strongest terms possible.”

Breakthrough?

The Donald Trump administrations coronavirus task force co-ordinator Dr. Deborah Birx today announced that a “breakthrough” solution for self swabbing will be available for Americans later this week so that individuals can do their own tests.

US President Donald Trump, from left, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the Centres for Disease Control, and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a White House news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, to discuss the threat of coronavirus. (Photo: White House) by .
US President Donald Trump, from left, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the Centres for Disease Control, and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. (Photo: White House)

Speaking at a White House briefing Monday evening, Birx quoted mortality data from Europe and reassured American parents that no child under the age of 15 had succumbed to the virus there.

“There was the one 14 year old in China. So we still see that there is less severity in children and so that should be reassuring to the moms and dads out there”, she said.

Speaking to Generation Z and to millennials, Birx said that less than one per cent of all the mortality is in the under-50 age group. Millennials are America’s largest demographic cohort.

Birx called these patterns “reassuring” for all Americans.

Birx said the mortality data from Europe shows that 99 per cent of all deaths there, “in general”, are in the over-50 age group and among those with underlying conditions.

“The pre existing condition piece still holds in Italy, with the majority of the mortality having three or more pre existing conditions”, Birx said.

Birx cautioned that New York City, Jersey City and parts of Long Island now have an “attack rate” of close to one in 1000 which is five times what other areas are seeing.

“We’re finding that 28 per cent of the submitted specimens are positive from that area where it’s less than 8 per cent in the rest of the country”, Birx said.

Birx called on New Yorkers in the COVID19 hotspots to “absolutely social distance and self isolate”.

“Clearly the virus had been circulating there for a number of weeks to have this level of penetrance into the general community”, Birx said.

New York's Times Square is almost deserted on Saturday, March 14, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Called the “Crossroads of the World,” Times Square is usually crowded with tourists from around the world and New Yorkers on a weekend. (Photo: Arul Louis/IANS) by .
New York’s Times Square is almost deserted because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Arul Louis/IANS)

New York has become the US epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 99 deaths on Monday, March 23. The US now has nearly one third of global deaths. The Johns Hopkins Hospital tracker puts the US death toll at above 530.

Birx said many of the alarmist projections are based on a situation where preventive social distancing is not in place.

“That’s what would happen if we did nothing at all”, she explained.

At the same briefing, US president Donald Trump confirmed that New York will begin treating some patients with a combination of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin. Last week, Trump touted anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine as a gamechanger. Trump’s task force has contradicted the president’s claims saying there is only anecdotal evidence of anti-malarials’ efficacy in COVID19 cases.

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