Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization announced that with the current pandemic, "there would be no return to the old normal in the foreseeable future' in a press conference on Monday. He warned leaders to follow the examples of countries that handled the pandemic in a phase-wise manner. Without naming any countries, he hinted that some leaders were headed in the wrong direction in terms of handling the fight against COVID-19.
In the weekly press conference, the director general appreciated countries that have managed to control this outbreak but also forewarned other countries to not take the pandemic lightly. His address came a day after 2,30,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported globally on July 12, the highest one-day spike witnessed so far. According to the WHO data, 80% of these cases come from the top 10 countries, of which India ranks third. Half of the cases globally come from the United States of America (over 33 lakh cases) and Brazil (over 18 lakh cases) which are the current epicenter of transmission. India with over 9 lakh cases and Russia with over 7 lakh cases rank third and fourth in the global weightage, according to a COVID-19 tracker by Johns Hopkins University.
The director general, without taking names, held a few countries accountable and moving towards the wrong direction. He chastised leaders for spreading mixed messages which were only accumulating distrust. Acknowleding the presence of other social and economic challenges, he stated that there is no shortcut to this pandemic.
Ghebreyesus further added that this situation will only get worse if leaders do not communicate clearly with their citizens. The need of the hour is to develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle the virus and curb its transmission, he emphasised. Citizens should also equally be responsible for following basic public health norms like physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, coughing etiquette and staying at home when sick to manage this pandemic.
He even mentioned about the ongoing race for developing a vaccine for the virus while emphasising that "we need to focus on using the tools we have now to suppress transmission and save lives". In its latest draft landscape of COVID-19 vaccines, the WHO says there are 160 vaccines at dfifferent stages of development. While 23 are currently under the different phases of clinical trials on humans, around 137 are still being tested on animals.
There is still hope to control the disease, Ghebreyseus said, if all countries followed a roadmap. "It is never too late to take decisive action" if all countries focused on curbing transmission, community participation led to changes in individual behaviours, and comprehensive, feasible strategies were designed and adopted by strong governments.
Leaders of countries struggling with the virus should learn from the countries that controlled the virus by rapid action by finding, isolating, testing, and contact tracing since the first cases. He also appreciated the European countries which brought their major outbreaks under control through the combination of effective leadership and citizens following hygienic public health behaviours.