WHO Head Warns Worst of Virus is Still Ahead

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) admonished that in the outbreak of the coronavirus “worst still is ahead of us,” raising new alarm loudspeakers about the pandemic as several countries start decreasing restrictive action.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify exactly why he believes that the outbreak that has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, could get worse. Some people, though, have pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed.

Tedros alluded to the so-called Spanish flu in 1918 as a reference for the coronavirus outbreak. “It has a very dangerous combination and this is happening like the 1918 flu that killed up to 100 million people,” he told reporters in Geneva. “But now we have technology, we can prevent that disaster, we can prevent that kind of crisis.” “Trust us. The worst is yetahead of us,” he said. “Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.” “We have been warning from day one that this is a devil that everyone should fight,” Tedros told a virtual briefing in Geneva.

“WHO is open. We don´t hide anything. Not only for CDC, them sending messages, or others — we want all countries to get the same message immediately because that helps countries to prepare well and to prepare quickly. Tedros also urged leaders not to exploit the pandemic for their own political capital. “Don´t use this virus as an opportunity to fight against each other or score political points,” he said. “It´s like playing with fire. It´s the political problem that may fuel further this pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed “systemic weaknesses” in global health systems, the G20 said Monday, but there was no mention of Washington´s contentious decision to halt World Health Organization funding.

More than 2,363,210 declared cases have been registered in 193 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December. The novel coronavirus has upended the lives of billions of people as nations imposed lockdown measures to curb its spread, sending the global economy into a tailspin.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is making progress in its battle to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, even as the number of Russians infected continues to rise.

“On the whole we’re managing the first issue in the fight against the epidemic — slowing its spread,” Putin said on Monday in a televised conference with his coronavirus task force of ministers and health experts. “But that shouldn’t comfort us,” added Putin. “As you tell me, the peak is still ahead.”

The authorities seized on new data suggesting infections in the capital were finally flattening out after nearly three weeks of a shutdown that authorities consistently call “self-isolation.”

“We see that self-isolation measures are effective,” said Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko in an interview with the state Rossiya 24 channel on Monday.

“In Moscow, the intensity of the spread of the process and numbers of gravely ill — for the moment their growth in numbers has stopped,” added Murashko.

Meanwhile, France on Monday announced it had become the fourth country worldwide to register over 20,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, after recording 547 new fatalities in the epidemic.

“Tonight, our country has passed a barrier that is symbolic and particularly painful,” top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters.

He announced that the country´s total death toll was 20,265, while welcoming new falls in the numbers in hospital and intensive care. Salomon noted that the coronavirus death toll was now was well above the 14,000 people who died in France´s worst recent flu epidemic and even topped the 19,000 killed by the 2003 heatwave.

France is the fourth country to record more than 20,000 deaths, following the United States — by far the worst affected worldwide — Italy and Spain. Its death toll includes 12,513 people who died in hospital and 7,752 people who lost their lives in old people´s homes and other nursing homes.

The state of New York, epicenter of America´s coronavirus infections, appeared to have passed the peak of the outbreak Sunday, as President Donald Trump bumped heads with governors over the pace of ending lockdowns.

The United States has so far recorded more than 758,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 41,000 deaths, far more than any other nation.

While some governors warned that the administration has failed to adequately boost testing, thousands of Americans were flouting stay-at-home orders to protest their states´ prolonged closures.

In Washington state, an early US virus hotspot, more than 2,000 people — many of them ignoring social distancing guidelines — congregated at the capitol to demand the governor re-open the state´s shuttered economy.

New York has borne the brunt of the virus, which has killed more than 18,000 people in the state, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. “We are past the high point, and all indications at this point is that we are on the descent,” state governor Andrew Cuomo told a press conference.

New York´s improving data came as the political battle between Trump and other state governors dragged on, with virus testing rates emerging as the focus.

Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, said, “We could double or even triple the number of tests that we´re executing daily if we had the swabs and reagents.” But as she and others called for more federal government help, Trump put his foot down. “I am right on testing. Governors must be able to step up and get the job done,” Trump tweeted.

Later Sunday, Trump announced that an unnamed US company would be boosting its test swab production by 20 million.

Trump sounded defiant at his daily White House press conference. “Some governors have gone too far” in their restrictions on business, he said. The protesters “love our country,” he added. “They want to get back to work.”

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a four-day lockdown from Thursday in Istanbul and 30 other major cities as part of measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. “We are planning to implement confinement between April 23-26 in 31 cities,” Erdogan said Monday in a televised address to the nation.

Turkey has so far applied a 48-hour lockdown in 31 cities over the last two weekends but the country of 83 million has stopped short of declaring a long-term nationwide lockdown.

Turkey on Monday announced 123 new coronavirus deaths, pushing the official death toll to 2,140. The number of cases has reached nearly 91,000. Turkey has already shut schools, banned mass gatherings and ordered confinement for people aged over 65 or under 20.

Meanwhile, Italy reported its first drop on Monday in the number of people currently suffering from the novel coronavirus since it recorded its first infection in February.

The Mediterranean country´s death toll still rose by 454 to 24,114 — second only to the United States. However, the figures are widely regarded as benchmarks rather than actual tallies — most Italian doctors believe the numbers of deaths and infections are far higher than those officially reported.

Meanwhile, Spain said 399 people died of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours in what was the lowest daily number of deaths in four weeks, the government said on Monday.

The data also showed cases rising to 200,210 in Spain, which ranks second in the world in terms of infections after outpacing Italy at the start of April.

Meanwhile, India’s federal health ministry Monday morning said the death toll due to COVID-19 in India rose to 543 and the total number of confirmed cases in the country reached 17,265. This is a jump of 24 deaths and an increase of 1,149 cases since Sunday evening.

Telangana, Punjab and Delhi governments have decided not to ease the lockdown restrictions despite the federal government’s guidelines to gradually allow some economic activities starting from Monday.

Meanwhile, Iran reported 91 new fatalities from coronavirus, raising the death toll to 5,209, state media said on Monday.

The Iranian state television reported Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, as saying that 1,294 more people tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 83,505. Jahanpour added that 59,273 people have recovered and been discharged from hospitals, whereas 3,389 patients were in critical condition.

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