The COVID-19 pandemic is escalating, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday, with over 300,000 cases now identified and infections reported from almost every country.
Dr Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s top emergency specialist, said he had briefed Olympic and Japanese officials on public health threats and anticipated a “very early” decision on the Tokyo 2020 Games to be opened in July, in the midst of the demands for postponement.
Although reaching the first 100,000 cases of coronavirus disease took 67 days from the first confirmed case, it took just 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, and only four days for the third 100,000 cases, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.
“We are not helpless bystanders. We will shift the course of this pandemic,” Tedros told more than 300 journalists in an online briefing.
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He called for global political engagement to shift the pandemic course and urged countries to take both defensive and attacking action.
“Asking people to stay home and other measures to isolate themselves from society is an effective way to slow down the spread of the virus and buy time, but they are protective measures,” he said.
“To succeed, we need to combat the virus with vigorous and coordinated tactics: testing every suspicious case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, monitoring and quarantining every near touch.” Tedros, citing “alarming reports” of large numbers of health workers around the world, said he would encourage leaders of the Group of 20 countries this week to improve protective efficiency.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 23, 2020
The Group of 20, is a forum for the world’s 19 largest developed and developing economies, including the European Union, which Tedros said represented more than 80 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). Next year it is headed by Saudi Arabia.
Ryan, asking about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, said the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government and the Tokyo 2020 Committee had been bringing the WHO into deliberations.
Australia and Canada have already said they are withdrawing from the 2020 Games and organizers are facing growing pressure in their 124-year modern history to postpone them for the first time.
“I think we will make a decision very soon,” Ryan said.
— Olympics (@Olympics) March 23, 2020
He said that any decision to postpone the Games should be taken by Japan and the IOC, adding: “We have every faith that the Japanese government and the IOC will not proceed with any Games if they are dangerous to athletes or spectators.”
India declared a halt to domestic flights on Monday and said most of the country was in full lockdown to avoid coronavirus spreading. The country has reported 471 cases, but health experts cautioned that a big jump could be inevitable, overwhelming the underfunded and deteriorating system of public health.