Dr Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, pulled no punches about the disease, which has now killed more than 570,000 people globally, with the number of cases increasing by a million in just five days, including 15,299 in Florida yesterday – a record for any US State. He stressed there could be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future, particularly if vital preventive measures were neglected.
If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go, it is going to get worse and worse and worse
Speaking during a virtual briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva, he said: “Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one.
“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.”
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus speaking at today’s briefing
Michael Gove has said people should wear masks out of courtesy
He added: “There are no shortcuts out of this pandemic.
“We all hope there will be an effective vaccine, but we need to focus on using the tools we have now to suppress transmission and save lives.
“We need to reach a sustainable situation where we have adequate control of this virus without shutting down our lives entirely, or lurching from lockdown to lockdown; which has a hugely detrimental impact on societies.”
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Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus is director-general of the WHO
Dr Ghebreyesus, whose organisation has faced scathing criticism from the US President, with Donald Trump accusing them of being unduly influenced by China, did not single out any nation in his remarks.
However, he said: “The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this.
“The only aim of the virus is to find people to infect.
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“Mixed messages from leaders are undermining the most critical ingredient of any response: trust.”
Speaking in the wake of uncertainty about whether Britons should or should not be compelled to wear masks in shops, Dr Ghebreyesus also stressed the importance of Governments clearly communicating with citizens and of rolling out “a comprehensive strategy focused on suppressing transmission and saving lives”.
Behavioural expert Professor Susan Michie, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said any legislation related to face-coverings needed to be accompanied with information campaigns on why and how to follow the rules if people are to adhere to them.
Coronavirus cases worldwide
She said this had not been seen with the UK Government’s approach to face coverings in England, adding that it was “signalling importance rather than punishment”.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove yesterday told the BBC face coverings should not be made mandatory in shops but should be worn out of courtesy and consideration for others.
More than 100 “local actions” are being taken across the country each week to tackle outbreaks of COVID-19, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Measures to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19
Flare-ups were being “swiftly and silently” dealt with, Mr Hancock stressed, while increased testing meant officials can take a more targeted approach rather than imposing national measures.
His comments come after 73 cases of the virus were confirmed at a farm in Herefordshire, leading to around 200 workers being quarantined as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, Monday marks two weeks since Mr Hancock announced Leicester would be the first city to be put under a local lockdown – restrictions he is expected to review later this week.