WHO warns of tough months ahead as COVID-19 tops 42 million

Oct. 26, 2020

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has a grim warning about the next months with COVID-19, warning that some countries are on a "dangerous track," according to a news report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota.

Its latest assessment came on a day when the WHO reported the most cases ever in a single day, over 445,000, roughly half of them from Europe. Meanwhile, the pandemic total is 43,170,766 cases with 1,155,434 of them fatal, according to the Johns Hopkins online tracker.

At a media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said the world is at a "critical juncture" with the pandemic, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. "The next few months are going to be very tough, and some countries are on a dangerous track," he said, noting that too many countries are reporting exponential increases in cases. Rising cases are now putting hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) near or above capacity, "and we're still only in October," he said.

Dr. Ghebreyesus urged countries to take five key steps, which include conducting an honest analysis of the data to assess the current situation, making COVID-19 measure adjustments when hospitalizations and ICU rates are rising, and being clear and honest with the public about their pandemic status. He also pressed governments to make it easier to comply with measures and, finally, to give people specific instructions on what sick or exposed people should do and share stories of hope and resilience.

Mandatory stay-at-home orders can be avoided if countries fine-tune their contact-tracing systems and focus on isolating all cases and quarantining their contacts, he said. "We've seen many times from around the world that it's never too late for leaders to act and turn the outbreak around."

Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, the WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, said Europe's situation is very worrying and that many cities will reach full ICU capacity in the coming weeks. Also, Mike Ryan, MD, who directs the WHO's health emergencies program, urged countries to shore up frontline health systems so that they do not collapse under the caseload.

CIDRAP has the report.

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