WHO warns coronavirus pandemic is speeding up as countries ease lockdown rules

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, February 28, 2020.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating around the world as many countries that reopened their economies see a resurgence in Covid-19 cases,  Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization said Monday.

“Although many countries have made some progress, globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up,” he said during a virtual news conference from the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives, but the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over.” 

The virus has infected more than 10.1 million people around the world and killed more than 502,000 people so far, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 60% of daily new cases came from countries in the Americas on Sunday, according to data published by the WHO.

More than 23% of the 189,077 new cases reported globally on Sunday came from the U.S., according to the WHO’s data. Brazil was the only country in the world to report more new cases on Sunday than the U.S., according to the WHO. 

“Some countries have now experienced a resurgence of cases as they start to reopen their economies and societies,” Tedros said. “Most people remain susceptible. The virus still has a lot of room to move.”

The U.S. is among the countries experiences a resurgence of infection after reopening businesses and easing restrictions across large swaths of the country. New cases have surged in several states across the nation, setting new records almost daily, driven mostly by expanding outbreaks in the American South and West. Florida, Texas, California and Arizona are just some of the states that reported record-high counts of daily new cases last week.

As cases in the U.S. have continued to increase, the average age of patients have declined, according to state officials in Florida, Texas and elsewhere. Some state officials say that’s why Covid-19 deaths have dropped even as cases surge since the virus is more fatal in older populations. However, several health officials, including White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned that deaths will increase over time, especially as younger patients infect older and more vulnerable people.

The continued strategy of testing broadly for the virus, investigating infections, identifying people who might have been exposed, isolating infected people and improving treatment for patients will save lives, Tedros said.

“The single most important intervention for breaking chains of transmission is not necessarily high-tech and can be carried out by a broad range of profession. It’s tracing and quarantine contacts,” he said. “Six months since the virus started, it could be like a broken record to say exactly the same thing but the same thing works. Test, test, isolate, quarantine cases.”

— CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.

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