World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference after the Emergency Committee for Pneumonia Due to Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV attended a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland on January 22nd. 2020.
Christopher Black | WHO | Handout via REUTERS
The World Health Organization warned of a steady spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks and urged people on Wednesday to adhere to mask mandates and social distancing rules as the world enters a critical phase of the pandemic.
“We are in our second year of the pandemic. There is a lot of frustration and fatigue out there wanting this pandemic to be over, but as the transmission increases, it is going in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO Technical Director of Covid-19, said during a Q&A at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. “It’s far from over. We’re not talking about a handful of cases here and there. We’re still in the acute phase of the pandemic.”
The number of cases rose 14% worldwide last week – the sixth straight weekly increase – and the death toll rose for the third straight week, she said. Globally, there have been more than 128 million Covid-19 cases and 2.8 million deaths since the virus emerged just over a year ago, according to John Hopkins University.
The countries with the largest transmission leaps are India, the USA, Brazil, Turkey, Poland, Italy, Ukraine, the Philippines, Germany and Iran.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday ordered the country’s third national lockdown and said schools would close for three weeks as the country tries to fend off a third wave of infections that threatens to overflow hospitals.
“We will lose control if we don’t move now,” he said in a televised address to the nation.
The virus is “stronger, it’s faster” as new varieties emerge that are easier to spread and more deadly than the original wild strain of the virus, said Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO Emergency Program Director. “We all have problems” and fed up with restrictive bans, he said.
“It’s a turning point in the pandemic because the moment we have to stay on course with all of this, the numbers are rising and governments are turning back to restrictive measures,” he said.