The World Health Organisation has said the coronavirus pandemic is by far the worst global health emergency the world has ever faced.
“COVID-19 has changed our world. It has brought people, communities and nations together – and driven them apart,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news briefing, marking six months since WHO declared a global health emergency.
The latest figures from Johns Hopkins University shows global coronavirus infections have surpassed 16.3 million and resulted in more than 650,000 fatalities.
“This is the sixth time a global health emergency has been declared under the international health regulations, but it’s easily the most severe,” Dr Tedros said.
He said a country’s success in defeating the virus boils down to whether people can strictly adhere to coronavirus precautions such as wearing masks and practising social distancing.
He praised Canada, China, Germany and South Korea for controlling outbreaks, saying “where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up”.
“We are not prisoners of the pandemic. Every single one of us can make a difference. The future is in our hands,” he said.
COVID-19 has illustrated that health is not a reward for development but a foundation of social, economic and political stability, Dr Tedros said.
“It has shown what humans are capable of, both positively and negatively.”
When the public health emergency was declared on January 30, there were less than 100 cases recorded outside of China and no deaths.
“In the past six weeks, the total number of cases has roughly doubled,” Dr Tedros said.
Countries face a long hard road ahead in fighting the virus, he added.