Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation, WHO, says COVID-19 remains public enemy number one, but that actions of many governments and people do not reflect this.
Mr Ghebreyesus said at a news conference at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland as COVID-19 cases rose to 13 million globally in five days.
“Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction.
“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.
“Mixed messages from leaders are undermining the most critical ingredient of any response: trust,” he said.
According to him, the situation will get worse if governments do not clearly communicate with their citizens and roll out comprehensive strategies focused on suppressing transmission and saving lives.
“If populations do not follow the basic public health principles of physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, coughing etiquette and staying at home when sick;
“If the basics aren’t followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go. It’s going to get worse and worse; but it does not have to be this way.
“Every single leader, every single government and every single person can do their bit to break chains of transmission and end the collective suffering.
“I am not saying it’s easy; it’s clearly not; I know that many leaders are working in difficult circumstances.
“I know that there are other health, economic, social and cultural challenges to weigh up,” he said.
The director general, however, said that the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World was published on Monday, which estimated that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019.
“While it’s too soon to assess the full impact of COVID-19, the report estimates that 130 million more people may face chronic hunger by the end of 2020.
“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,” Mr Ghebreyesus said.
In addition, he said there would be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future.
“But there is a roadmap to a situation where we can control the disease and get on with our lives; but this is going to require three things:
“First, a focus on reducing mortality and suppressing transmission; second, an empowered, engaged community that takes individual behaviour measures in the interest of each other.
“And third, we need strong government leadership and coordination of comprehensive strategies that are communicated clearly and consistently.
“It can be done. It must be done. I have said it before and I will keep saying it. No matter where a country is in its epidemic curve, it is never too late to take decisive action.
“Implement the basics and work with community leaders and all stakeholders to deliver clear public health messages,’’ he said.
Mr Ghebreyesus added: “We weren’t prepared collectively, but we must use all the tools we have to bring this pandemic under control. And we need to do it right now.
“Together, we must accelerate the science as quickly as possible, find joint solutions to COVID-19 and through solidarity build a cohesive global response; science, solutions and solidarity.”