World

There’s still hope despite grim statistics: WHO

There will soon be 20 million Covid-19 cases, 750,000 deaths

GENEVA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) insisted yesterday there was still hope of conquering the coronavirus pandemic despite the pain and suffering behind the looming 750,000 death toll and 20 million cases worldwide.

With both landmarks expected to be reached within days, the WHO said it is never too late to take action to suppress the Covid-19 crisis that has gripped the planet.

"This week we'll reach 20 million registered cases of Covid-19 and 750,000 deaths," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference.

"Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering. Every life lost matters. I know many of you are grieving and that this is a difficult moment for the world.

"But I want to be clear: There are green shoots of hope and... it's never too late to turn the outbreak around."

Dr Tedros gave examples of countries that had successfully clamped down on the spread of the virus, citing New Zealand and Rwanda.

He praised Britain and France for taking swift recent measures to tackle new spikes, such as imposing lockdowns around clusters in northern England and making masks compulsory in busy outdoor spaces in Paris.

"My message is crystal clear: Suppress, suppress, suppress the virus," he said. "If we suppress the virus effectively, we can safely open up societies."

Dr Mike Ryan, head of WHO's emergencies programme, said the coronavirus was simple, brutal and cruel.

"It's brutal in its simplicity, it is brutal in its cruelty, but it doesn't have a brain," he said.

"We have the brains... we can outsmart something that doesn't have a brain but we are not doing such a great job right now."

He said Brazil is registering 50,000 to 60,000 cases a day.

HIGH LEVEL OF EPIDEMIC

"Brazil is sustaining a very high level of epidemic, the curve is somewhat flattened, but it's not going down and the system is under a great deal of pressure."

When it comes to funds, the WHO said there is a "vast global gap" between funds needed to fight the pandemic and funds committed.

"The coming three months present a crucial window of opportunity to scale-up the impact of the ACT Accelerator for global impact," Dr Tedros told a briefing in Geneva, referring to the Access to Covid-19 Tools initiative.

"However to exploit this window, we have to fundamentally scale up the way we are funding the ACT Accelerator and prioritise the use of new tools.

"There is a vast global gap between our ambition for the ACT Accelerator, and the amount of funds that have been committed."

He said the WHO was only "10 per cent of the way" to funding the billions of dollars required.

"For the vaccines alone, over US$100 billion (S$137 billion) will be needed," Dr Tedros said.

This sounds like lot of money, and it is.

"But it's small in comparison to the US$10 trillion that has already been invested by G-20 countries in fiscal stimulus... so far," he said. - AFP, REUTERS

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