WHO sees worst in offing as world virus cases top 13m

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Foreign Desk Report

GENEVA: “Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing from the UN agency’s headquarters in Geneva. “If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go it is going to get worse and worse and worse.”
Global infections stand at 13 million, according to a Reuters tally, with more than half a million deaths.
Tedros, whose leadership has been heavily criticised by US President Donald Trump, said that of 230,000 new cases on Sunday, 80% were from 10 nations, and 50% from just two countries.
The United States and Brazil are the countries worst hit. “There will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future … There is a lot to be concerned about,” Tedros added, in some of his strongest comments of recent weeks.
Tedros said the WHO had still not received formal notification of the US pullout announced by Trump. The US president says the WHO pandered to China, where the Covid-19 disease was first detected, at the start of the crisis.
Trump, who wore a protective face mask for the first time in public at the weekend, has himself been accused by political opponents of not taking the coronavirus seriously enough, something he denies. A WHO advance team has gone to China to investigate the origins of the new coronavirus, first discovered in the city of Wuhan. The team’s members are in quarantine, as per standard procedure, before they begin work with Chinese scientists, WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan said. Coronavirus infections rose above 13 million across the world on Monday, according to a media tally, climbing by one million in just five days in a pandemic that has killed more than half a million people. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there would be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future, with too many countries headed in the wrong direction.
“The virus remains public enemy number one,” he told a virtual briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva. “If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go, it is going to get worse and worse and worse. But it does not have to be this way.” A global tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating the fastest in Latin America. The Americas account for more than half the world’s infections and half the deaths.
Parts of the world, especially the United States with more than 3.3 million confirmed cases, are still seeing huge increases in a first wave of COVID-19 infections, while others “flatten the curve” and ease lockdowns.
Some places, such as the Australian city of Melbourne and Leicester in England, are implementing a second round of shutdowns. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, albeit with a low 1,522 cases, is to tighten social distancing measures again amid growing worries about a third wave. The United States reported a daily global record of 69,070 new infections on July 10. In Brazil, 1.86 million people have tested positive, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 72,000 people have died. The U.S. state of Florida reported a record increase of more than 15,000 new cases in 24 hours on Sunday, more than South Korea’s total since the disease was first identified at the end of last year. Florida tallied 12,624 new cases on Monday.
Coronavirus infections were rising in about 40 U.S. states, according to a Reuters analysis of cases for the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks. Yet US President Donald Trump and White House officials have repeatedly said the disease is under control and that schools must reopen in the autumn. “The president and his administration are messing with the health of our children,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on CNN’s “State of the Union” programme.
“We all want our children to go back to school, parents do and children do. But they must go back safely.”