The coronavirus pandemic has entered a “new and dangerous phase” as daily Covid-19 cases hit record highs, the World Health Organization warned Friday.
The number of new cases reported Thursday “were the most in a single day so far” at 150,000, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference from the agency’s Geneva headquarters.
Almost half of the total cases were reported from the Americas, Tedros said, with a large number coming from Southern Asia and the Middle East.
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“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 is still deadly and most people are still susceptible,” he said.
The coronavirus has sickened more than 8.5 million people worldwide and killed at least 454,359, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The United States has the worst outbreak in the world. The virus has infected 2.1 million Americans and at least 118,435 have died, Hopkins data shows. As of Thursday, the nation’s seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases increased more than 15% compared with a week ago.
Tedros said world leaders and the public need to “exercise extreme vigilance” against the virus, urging them to “focus on the basics.”
“Continue maintaining your distance from others. Stay home if you feel sick. Keep covering your nose and mouth when you cough. Wear a mask when appropriate. Keep cleaning your hands,” he said.
The WHO has been warning world leaders that there can be “no going back to business as usual” following the Covid-19 outbreak, which has upended economies and wreaked havoc on nearly every country around the globe.
The agency has told countries that they will need to manage around the coronavirus for the foreseeable future as cases level off or decline in some countries, while peaking in others and resurging in areas where the Covid-19 pandemic appeared to be under control.
Tedros said Friday that the world will “overcome” the pandemic and be better prepared for a future crisis. He added the WHO is concerned about cases in low- and middle-income countries.
“Covid-19 has demonstrated that no one is safe until we are all safe,” he said. “Only by putting politics aside and working in true collaboration can we make a difference.”
Scientists across the world are fast-tracking work to develop a vaccine for the virus. There are at least 141 vaccines in development, according to the WHO. At least 13 are already in clinical trials.
Tedros said finding a safe and effective vaccine will be a “very difficult journey,” noting scientists have never produced a successful vaccine for a coronavirus.
“There is no known vaccine against any coronavirus so far,” he said. “If a vaccine is discovered, this will be the first vaccine for coronavirus.”
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