The coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating ” but the trajectory of its pandemic can be managed, the World Health Organisation has said.
The remarks came as the number of deaths soared past 15,000, with more than 341,000 people infected worldwide, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.
“The pandemic is accelerating,” the WHO chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said on Monday.
Mr Ghebreyesus said it took 67 days from the beginning of the outbreak in China for the infection to reach the first 100,000 cases
Meanwhile, it took another 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.
The number of officially recorded cases is believed to represent only a fraction of the true number of infections, with many countries only testing the most severe cases in need of hospitalisation.
More than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, from almost every country in the world.
“We’re not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic can be managed,” he said.
Mr Ghebreyesus compared the fight against COVID 19-to football tactics.
“You can’t win a football game only by defending. You have to attack as well,” he said.
“Social distancing could buy time by slowing down the spread of the virus “but they are defensive measures that will help us win,” he said.
“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,” he said.
“To win, we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics – testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, and tracing and quarantining every close contact.”
Despite the urge to go for the attack, Mr Ghebreyesus acknowledged that some countries are struggling with the capacity to carry out these offensive measures.
“Several countries have shown that mobilizing resources internally from less-affected regions is one way to increase capacity,” he said.
He said addressing the global shortage of these life-saving tools means addressing every part of the supply chain, from raw materials to finished product.
“Measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus may have unintended consequences by exacerbating shortages of essential protective gear, and the materials needed to make them,” he said.
WHO has been working with countries for years to build a network of Emergency Medical Teams for exactly this eventuality, to provide surge capacity of high-quality health professionals who can be deployed to care for patients and save lives.
He said health workers can only do their jobs effectively when they can do their jobs safely.
“We continue to hear alarming reports from around the world of large numbers of infections among health workers.”
The WHO chief said ‘even if we do everything else right, if we don’t prioritize protecting health workers, many people will die because the health worker who could have saved their life is sick.’
He said WHO has been working hard with many partners to rationalize and prioritize the use of personal protective equipment.
“Small, observational and non-randomized studies will not give us the answers we need. Using untested medicines without the right evidence could raise false hope, and even do more harm than good and cause a shortage of essential medicines that are needed to treat other diseases.
“That’s why WHO has launched the SOLIDARITY trial, to generate robust, high-quality evidence as fast as possible. I’m glad that many countries have joined the SOLIDARITY trial, that will help us to move with speed and volume.
“The more countries that sign up to the SOLIDARITY trial and other large studies, the faster we will get results on which drugs work, and the more lives we will be able to save.
“We also recognize that there is a desperate need for effective therapeutics. There is currently no treatment that has been proven to be effective against COVID-19.
“It’s great to see the level of energy now being directed to research against COVID-19.
The WHO Chief believes solving this problem requires political commitment and political coordination at the global level.
“This week, I will be addressing heads of state and government from the G20 countries. Among other issues, I will be asking them to work together to increase production, avoid export bans and ensure equity of distribution, on the basis of need,” he said.
He called for unity in the G20 countries, most importantly those who have more than 80 per cent of global GDP.
“Political commitment at the G20 means strong solidarity that can help us to move forward and fight this pandemic in the strongest way possible,” he said.