World

WHO chief: Contact tracing most important step in coronavirus fight

WHO chief says it is the most important step in fighting the virus, as pandemic speeds up globally

GENEVA: Tracing contacts of people with coronavirus infections is the most important step in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, and countries that are failing to do so have no excuse, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Monday.

Countries such as South Korea had managed to contain the disease by tracking down the contacts of those carrying infection, Dr Tedros said.

This was possible even under extreme conditions, as the WHO itself had shown by halting an outbreak of Ebola in eastern Congo, tracing 25,000 contacts a day in a remote area where some 20 armed groups were fighting, he added.

"No excuse for contact tracing. If any country is saying contact tracing is difficult, it is a lame excuse."

He also said the pandemic is far from over.

"Although many countries have made some progress, globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up," Dr Tedros told a briefing.

"We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over. Most people remain susceptible, the virus still has a lot of room to move."

NEW EPICENTRE

One of the countries that best exemplifies Dr Tedros' comments is the US.

Several states, thinking the worst was over, eased restrictions too soon and are now seeing a huge jump in cases.

California and Texas both marked record spikes in new infections on Monday, a Reuters tally showed, as Los Angeles reported an "alarming" one-day surge in America's second-largest city that put it over 100,000 cases.

Los Angeles has become a new epicentre in the pandemic as cases and hospitalisations surge there despite California Governor Gavin Newsom's strict orders requiring bars to close and residents to wear masks in nearly all public spaces.

"The alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and hospitalisations signals that we, as a community, need to take immediate action to slow the spread of Covid-19," director of public health for Los Angeles County Barbara Ferrer said.

"Otherwise, we are quickly moving towards overwhelming our healthcare system and seeing even more devastating illness and death," she said.

Covid-19 infections in Texas rose by 6,545 on Monday to nearly 160,000, also setting a record for a one-day increase.

Nationally, cases rose by more than 40,000, for the fourth time in the past five days.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the closure of bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theatres and water parks for at least 30 days.

Mr Ducey also delayed the start of public schooling until Aug 17.

Texas and Florida ordered the closure of all their recently reopened bars on Friday.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said on Monday indoor dining will not resume tomorrow as planned and would be postponed indefinitely.

In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly imposed a statewide mandate requiring the wearing of masks in public spaces, which she said was necessary to avoid another shutdown. - REUTERS

WORLD