Pandemic is 'speeding up — World Health Organization director

  • Pandemic is 'speeding up — World Health Organization director

Pandemic is 'speeding up — World Health Organization director

Tracing contacts of people with coronavirus infections is the most important step in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and countries that are failing to do so have no excuse, the World Health Organization chief said on Monday.

Describing contact tracing as hard is a "lame excuse", World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, as he warned many countries were not doing enough to get a handle on the virus six months on.

However "although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up", he warned. The United States, which accounts for about 4 percent of the global population, has almost a quarter of the total confirmed cases, 2.4 million.

More than 60% of daily new cases came from countries in the Americas on Sunday, according to data published by the WHO.

Brazil was the only country in the world to report more new cases on Sunday than the US, according to the WHO.

Russian Federation and India have both reported more than half a million cases, while the United Kingdom, Peru and Chile have each reported more than a quarter million cases. The number of patients who died is now above 500,000.

"Most people remain susceptible, the virus still has a lot of room to move", he said. "The virus is spreading aggressively".

"Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world - and our lives - would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus", said Tedros. The initial cluster of cases has been linked to a food market in the city, which serves as a major manufacturing and transportation hub, though the exact source of the initial infections is unknown.

The WHO director general pointed to the rigorous contact tracing that was carried out in the North Kivu region of Democratic Republic of Congo during its Ebola outbreak, which was declared over last week.

If contact tracing can work in a war zone, he said, it can work in nations at peace, no matter the scope and scale of the outbreaks.

He has previously lauded the contact tracing programmes adopted by countries like South Korea, Singapore and China, which involved teams of health workers tracing tens of thousands of people and ensuring that those exposed to the virus were isolated. "Trust me, there is not too many even in a world situation".

Meanwhile, a report on the NHS Test and Trace scheme, run by around 25,000 contact tracers, found that the system contacted fewer than half of those at risk of coronavirus between 28 May and 3 June.