World Health Organization’s (WHO) lead epidemiologist warned Monday that the global trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic is “growing exponentially,” and countries need to use other tools to fight the disease along with vaccines.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove spoke at a twice-weekly WHO webinar in Geneva on the coronavirus, noting that the world marked seven straight weeks in a row with the number of pandemic cases growing.
“Last week, we had 4.4 million cases,” said van Kerkhove and the WHO observed that in January and February, the world had seen six consecutive weeks of declining cases.
The “trajectory of the pandemic” right now shows, “it is growing exponentially,” said van Kerkhove.
“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures.”
The Johns Hopkins University of Medicine in the United States reported Monday that there had been more than 136 million COVID-19 cases and over 2.9 million deaths due to the virus since it first surfaced in late 2019 in China.
Van Kerkhove said that vaccines and vaccinations are coming, but that they are not yet in every part of the world.
“There are a lot of concrete steps that are being made to increase vaccine capacities vaccine production and rolling vaccines out but right now, there are tools that we have; we have to be using them right now,” said the WHO epidemiologist.
“We need governments to support individuals so that the control measures that are in place are applied consistently in a coherent manner.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus agreed that vaccines are a vital and powerful tool at the webinar, but they are not the only way to fight the virus.
He said that more than 780 million doses of vaccines have now been administered globally.
However, Tedros warned: “This disease is not flu. Young, healthy people have died. And we still don’t fully understand the long-term consequences of infection for those who survive.”
The WHO chief said that each day, week after week, the health body has a consistent message.
“Physical distancing works; masks work; hand hygiene works; ventilation works. Surveillance, testing, contact tracing, isolation, supportive quarantine, and compassionate care — they all work to stop infections and save lives,” said Tedros.
He said, however, that “confusion, complacency, and inconsistency in public health measures and their application are driving transmission and costing lives.”
He said many countries worldwide have shown that the virus can be stopped and contained with proven public health measures and robust systems that respond rapidly and consistently.
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