Giving up on virus control 'dangerous': WHO chief

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The World Health Organization chief warned Monday that it would be “dangerous” to abandon efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, as suggested by a senior US official, and urged countries not to “give up”.

“We mustn’t give up,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a virtual briefing.

He admitted that after months of battling the new coronavirus, which killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide, a certain level of “pandemic fatigue” had set in.

“It’s tough and the fatigue is real,” said Tedros.

“But we cannot give up,” he added, calling on leaders to “make up for the disruption to life and livelihood.”

“If leaders act quickly, the virus can be suppressed.”

His comment came a day after US President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN that the government’s focus had shifted to containment without eradicating the virus.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic. We’re going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other resources,” Meadows said, comparing the deadlier COVID-19 to seasonal flu.

“We can do both”

When asked about Meadows’ comments, Tedros said he agreed that it was important to focus on containment, and specifically protecting the vulnerable.

“But giving up control is dangerous,” he insisted.

Tedros stressed that containing and fighting the pandemic “are not contradictory. We can do both.”

While governments are responsible for ensuring things like testing and contact tracing, he stressed that everyone has a responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Governments should do their part and our citizens should do their part to do everything possible to minimize transmission,” he said.

“There are no magical solutions to this outbreak,” he insisted.

“Nobody wants so-called lockdowns anymore. But if we want to avoid them, we all have to play our part.”

When asked for Meadows’ comments, WHO’s Emergencies Chief Michael Ryan said countries “shouldn’t give up suppressing transmission”.

“There were many places in the US and elsewhere that had major problems with mitigation in March and April,” he said.

“When our emergency rooms were overwhelmed and we rolled freezer trucks to the back of hospitals, it was a reality to alleviate illness in the face of a tsunami of cases.

“You have no more capacity to deal with it. And now that is the fear.”

European “epicenter”

He was particularly concerned about the situation in Europe, which accounted for 46 percent of the world’s cases and nearly a third of the world’s deaths over the past week.

“There is no question that the European region is currently an epicenter for disease,” said Ryan.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical manager on the pandemic, also expressed concern about the situation in Europe – particularly the increase in hospital stays and the rapid occupation of intensive care units.

“In many cities, beds fill up too quickly and we are seeing a lot of predictions that the beds in the intensive care unit will reach capacity in the coming days and weeks,” she said on Monday.

Van Kerkhove, however, was optimistic, pointing out that “countries across Europe have brought transmission under control from spring to summer, with the number of cases being very low”.

“You can do this again,” she said, emphasizing that the measures to interrupt the transmission were known.

“The other possibility is if we do not quarantine contacts with known cases, they all have to be in quarantine – and we want to avoid that.”

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