Treating the coronavirus
Treating the coronavirus iStock

Speaking at the daily briefing of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization's director-general, expressed criticism of countries he feels are not doing enough to combat the coronavirus epidemic, but said that if they change their policies now, it's not too late to turn things around.

"Almost 80% of [recent] cases were reported from just 10 countries," he said, and "although the number of daily deaths remains relatively stable, there is a lot to be concerned about."

He then divided countries into four broad categories, depending on their response to the pandemic.

In the first category he placed countries in the Pacific, Caribbean, and Africa, where "they prepared and responded rapidly and effectively to the first cases. As a result, they have so far avoided large outbreaks."

Other countries had shown less foresight, but still managed to bring "a major outbreak ... under control through a combination of strong leadership and populations adhering to key public health measures." In both these categories, it is now possible to begin reopening the economy while exercising caution, he said.

In the third category are "countries [which] are losing gains, as proven measures to reduce risk are not [being] followed,” he said. They "overcame the first peak of the outbreak, but having eased restrictions, are now struggling with new peaks and accelerating cases."

Worst of all, he noted, are countries in the “intense transmission phase,” such as the United States and Latin American countries, the current global epicenter of the virus.

Dr. Tedros then spoke bluntly, saying that "too many countries are headed in the wrong direction," and that many governments are not taking the coronavirus seriously enough. "If the basics [of social distancing, masks etc.] aren't followed ... it's going to get worse and worse," he warned.

"There will be no return to the 'old normal' for the foreseeable future," he said, although he added that, "no matter where a country is in its epidemic curve, it is never too late to take decisive action ... it’s never too late to bring the virus under control."