The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Covid-19 was by far the most serious global health emergency ever declared.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he would reconvene the WHO emergency committee this week to review his assessment of the pandemic.
There have been five other global health emergencies: Ebola (two outbreaks), Zika, polio and swine flu.
More than 16 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported since January.
“When I declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 30… there were less than 100 cases outside of China and no deaths,” said Dr Tedros.
“Covid-19 has changed our world. He brought people, communities and nations together and separated them. “
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“This is the sixth time that a global health emergency has been declared under international health regulations, but it is by far the most serious. [More than] 16 million cases have now been reported to WHO and more than 640,000 deaths, and the pandemic continues to escalate.
“In the past six weeks, the total number of cases has practically doubled,” he added.
Although the world had made a huge effort to fight the virus, there was “a long, difficult road ahead of us,” he added.
In other developments:
- US President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has tested positive for the coronavirus. He is the most senior administration official known to have tested positive
Spain insists recent outbreaks of new cases have been isolated and the country safe for tourists, after the UK introduced new measures requiring Spanish visitors to be quarantined for 14 days
Vietnam has closed the coastal city of Da Nang to tourists after 15 new cases of locally transmitted coronavirus were recorded there – the first in the country since April
- The American biotechnology company Moderna has entered the final phase of clinical trials for a potential Covid-19 vaccine. Some 30,000 volunteers participate in the third and final phase of testing before the vaccine can be submitted to a regulatory authority for evaluation and possible approval
- Belgium is tightening restrictions in an attempt to avoid another lockout amid a worrying increase in the number of its cases. From Wednesday, Belgians will be able to see a maximum of five people apart from their families. Currently a Belgian can meet 15 people in a “social bubble”
At Monday’s briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, the WHO also said travel restrictions could not be the long-term solution and countries must do more to stem the spread by adopting proven strategies such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.
“It’s going to be nearly impossible for individual countries to keep their borders closed for the foreseeable future. Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to pick up, ”WHO Emergency Program Director Mike Ryan said.
WHO officials, however, acknowledged that further lockdowns in countries with new outbreaks may be necessary, but suggested they should be as short as possible and limited to as small a geographic area as possible (that is, i.e. local locks).
“The more we understand the virus, the more surgical we can be to control it,” Ryan said.