Countries ignored WHO warning and ‘squandered’  first opportunity to stop coronavirus: WHO chief

The world  “squandered” the opportunity to act to fight the novel coronavirus,  one or two months ago,  says the director-general of the World Health Organization.

Speaking at a press conference on  Wednesday, WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said WHO had been warning for months about the dangers of COVID-19, but countries didn’t take action.

“If you remember, we have been saying for more than two months now, this virus is public enemy number one,” he said. 

“I think we squandered the first window of opportunity. But we are saying today in my message, I made it clear that this is a second opportunity which we should not squander and do everything to suppress and control this virus.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of Wednesday, there were more than 450,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 20,000 

Tedros outlined six steps the WHO still believes will help countries control the virus:

  1. Expand, train and deploy their health care and public health workforce.
  2. Implement a system to find every suspected case at the community level.
  3. Ramp up production capacity and availability of testing.
  4. Identify, adapt and keep facilities countries will use to treat and isolate patients.
  5. Develop a clear process to quarantine contacts.
  6. Focus the whole of government on fighting COVID-19.

More and more countries are implementing lockdown measures, said Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO’s COVID-19 program.

“This is buying you a little bit of time, and that time needs to be used appropriately,” she said.

Countries need to make sure that during that time, they’re able to build up their response systems to find and fight cases to make the problem more manageable, she said.

 “These measures are the best way to suppress and stop transmission so that when restrictions are lifted, the virus doesn’t resurge,” Tedros said.