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COVID-19 pandemic ‘accelerating’: WHO chief

“It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.”

The new COVID-19 pandemic is clearly “accelerating”, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday, but said it was still possible to change its trajectory by going on the attack. The remarks came as the number of deaths soared past 15,000, with more than 3,41,000 people infected worldwide, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.

“The pandemic is accelerating,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference. He said it took 67 days from the beginning of the outbreak in China in December for the virus to infect the first 1,00,000 people worldwide. In comparison, it took 11 days for the second 1,00,000 cases and just four days for the third 1,00,000 cases, he said. The number of officially recorded cases is believed to represent only a fraction of the true number of infections, with many countries only testing the most severe cases in need of hospitalisation. “We are not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic,” Mr. Tedros said.

Physical distancing could buy time by slowing down the spread, “but they are defensive measures that will not help us to win,” he warned. “To win, we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics,” he said, reiterating a call for “testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case and tracing and quarantining every close contact.”

On lockdown mode

Some 1.7 billion people have been asked to stay home in over 50 countries and territories around the world, according to an AFP tally on Monday. Some countries have imposed mandatory lockdown measures, while others have issued stay-at-home recommendations to stem the spread of the virus.

Lockdowns in parts of India alone have kept some 700 million people hemmed in. At least 34 more countries and territories have also established mandatory lockdown measures ordering people to stay in their homes, accounting for some 659 million people. France, Italy, Argentina, the U.S. State of California, Iraq and Rwanda have also rolled out enforced lockdowns. Greece is the most recent country to impose mandatory confinement measures, which came into effect on Monday morning. Colombia will enforce an obligatory lockdown on Tuesday and New Zealand will follow suit on Wednesday. In most cases, it is still possible for people  to go to work, buy essentials or seek medical care.

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