GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s director-general said on Monday he will self-quarantine as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hits Europe including the Swiss city where the U.N. health agency is based.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was feeling well and not experiencing symptoms, but that he was going to isolate himself for a period of time because of a contact who had tested positive for the coronavirus. Tedros planned to work from home in line with WHO protocols, he said, even though he has not tested positive.
“At this time, it is critically important that we all comply with health guidance,” Tedros told a regular press briefing. “This is how we will break chains of transmission, suppress the virus and protect health systems.”
The 55-year-old politician and public health expert, who formerly headed Ethiopia’s foreign affairs and health ministries, indicated he had not tested positive though he did not specify whether he had, in fact, been tested at all. Neither he nor the U.N. agency identified his contact who had tested positive. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for the pandemic, said WHO’s headquarters has not had any virus clusters “on the premises” but its daily monitoring continues.
Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, said the agency’s protocols did not require Tedros to be tested but that may change if any symptoms arrive.
Tedros has been the public face of the global organization coordinating efforts to end the pandemic among leaders and officials from 194 member nations. Nearly 47 million people have been infected and 1.2 million have died since the novel coronavirus was first detected in late December in Wuhan, China. WHO declared it to be a pandemic on March 11 and Tedros said in August he hoped it could be brought to an end in less than two years if nations can pull together in fighting it.
Over the past month, though, a second wave has hit particularly hard in the United States and Europe, with new lockdowns and other restrictive measures adopted in Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland, among other places, that are aimed at slowing further spread of the virus.