GENEVA — As infection rates continue to rise the world faces “a new and dangerous phase” of the COVID-19 pandemic that requires more vigilance and restraint while easing lockdowns, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
With 8.6 million cases and 458,000 deaths worldwide, nations are still confronted with an “accelerating” pandemic that is not going away anytime soon, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing.
Tedros emphasized that Thursday’s tally of more than 150,000 new coronavirus cases is the highest single daily total so far. Almost half of those cases were reported in the Americas, but significant numbers came from South Asia and the Middle East.
“The pandemic is accelerating,” he said. “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. But the virus is still spreading fast, it’s still deadly, and most people are still susceptible.”
Tedros advised nations to “exercise extreme vigilance” by continuing to enforce the U.N. health agency’s recommendations for social distancing, staying at home when sick, wearing masks and cleaning hands.
“We continue to call on all countries to focus on the basics: find, isolate, test and care for every case. Trace and quarantine every contact. As the pandemic gathers pace, it’s the most vulnerable who will suffer the most,” he said. “All countries rich and poor have populations who are vulnerable to a higher risk of severe disease and death.”
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) June 19, 2020
‘No one is safe’
Around the world, nations are moving to ease lockdown restrictions that slowed the spread of the coronavirus but crippled economies and overturned countless lives.
In the United States, President Donald Trump prepared to hold his first political rally in months, despite an increase in COVID-19 cases in 23 U.S. states and 10 experiencing their highest single-day jumps so far.
Saudi Arabia readied for the reopening of mosques in Mecca. Singapore lifted most of its restrictions. Ireland planned to reopen gyms and churches.
Switzerland, one of the few nations that has successfully contained the virus, decided to allow gatherings of up to 1,000 people. But in other countries such as Australia, China and Costa Rica, authorities moved to halt their planned reopenings or to reimpose earlier restrictions as new cases arose.
Tedros said COVID-19 has demonstrated that around the world “no one is safe until we’re all safe. Only by putting politics aside and working in true collaboration can we make a difference.”