Europe has become the “new epicenter” of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief said on Friday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed journalists from the WHO headquarters in a virtual press conference with only himself and other WHO officials present.
“Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China.
“More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic,” he said.
More than 132,500 COVID-19 cases have been reported in 123 countries and territories, with almost 5,000 people losing their lives.
Tedros said that even though COVID-19 captured the world’s attention, there are still many other health issues people continue to face every single day, and that WHO is continuing to work on.
“Babies are still being born. Essential surgery is continuing. People still need emergency care after road traffic crashes. People still need treatment for cancer, diabetes, HIV, malaria and many other diseases,” he said.
He warned: “Any country that looks at the experience of other countries with large epidemics and thinks ‘that won’t happen to us’ is making a deadly mistake. It can happen to any country.”
Countries need to “detect, protect and treat” to break the chains of transmissions, he said.
“Our message to countries continues to be: You must take a comprehensive approach. Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all,” said Tedros.
The WHO said it shipped supplies of personal protective equipment to 56 countries, and is shipping to a further 28 countries, and it sent almost 1.5 million diagnostic tests to 120 countries.
Switzerland, which hosts the WHO, announced some sweeping measures that includes closing schools throughout the country and imposing a ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people until the end of April.
Bars and restaurants are limited to 50 guests while the government pledged 10 billion Swiss francs ($10.6 billion) in emergency aid to support the economy in the country with a population of some 8.6 million.
More than 1,000 cases were reported in Switzerland by federal authorities as of Friday, as well as nine deaths, with most victims elderly people with pre-existing health conditions.
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