The COVID-19 pandemic is now in a “new and dangerous phase,” the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday, June 19, with the disease accelerating as countries lift restrictions and people tire of lockdowns.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference at their Geneva headquarters that the number of new cases registered this week “was the most in a single day so far” at 150,000.
The WHO Chief urged nations and citizens to remain vigilant. The number of cases reported to the United Nations Health Agency has reached a new high. Nearly half of the cases have been reported from the Americas, said Tedros, with a significant number coming from South Asia and the Middle East.
“The world is in a new and dangerous phase. Many people are understandably fed up with being at home. Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies,” he said.
However, Tedros underscored that the coronavirus is still spreading fast. He added the virus is still deadly and most people remain susceptible.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus has affected at least 8.5 million people worldwide and killed more than 450,000.
The United States is experiencing the worst outbreak in the world. The virus has infected 2.1 million Americans, and at least 118,435 died, Hopkins data shows. As of Thursday, June 18, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the nation increased by more than 15% compared to a week ago.
Tedros said world leaders and the public needed “exercising extreme vigilance” against the virus, urging them to “focus on the basics.”
“Continue maintaining your distance from others. Stay home if you feel sick. Keep covering your nose and mouth when you cough. Wear a mask when appropriate. Keep cleaning your hands,” Tedros added.
The WHO has warned world leaders that after the COVID-19 outbreak, which has upended economies worldwide, there can be “no going back to business as usual.”
The agency has told countries they will need to manage the coronavirus in the future as cases level off or decline in some countries. Tedros also said the world will surpass the pandemic and be better prepared for a future crisis. He continued that the WHO is worried about low- and middle-income cases.
The coronavirus has shown that “no one is safe,” Tedros said. He added the world could “make a difference” only by “putting politics aside and working in true collaboration.”
Meanwhile, scientists worldwide are fast-tracking to develop a virus vaccine. According to the WHO, there are at least 141 vaccines under production. There are at least 13 clinical trials already underway.
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Tedros said it will be a challenging journey to find a safe and effective vaccine, noting scientists have never produced a successful coronavirus vaccine.
There is no known vaccine against any coronavirus yet, Tedros said. He said if a vaccine is discovered, this will be the first.