The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday the world has now seen seven consecutive weeks of rising COVID-19 infections and four consecutive weeks of increasing numbers of deaths after starting the year with six weeks of declining numbers.
At the agency’s Monday briefing from its headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the fourth-highest number of cases in a single week since the pandemic began occurred last week. This, after the world has delivered more than 780 million doses of vaccine.
The WHO chief blamed “confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures and their application” for driving up infections and costing lives. He said while vaccines are a vital and powerful tool in fighting the pandemic, they are not the only tool.
Tedros said the standard measures — social distancing, hygiene, masks and continued testing and tracking — work and save lives. He noted that many countries have shown it is possible to bring the virus under control using and consistently applying these proven public health measures.
He noted countries where there is continuing transmission of the virus, and yet restaurants, nightclubs and markets are reopening, with people taking few precautions.
The director said WHO does not want to see endless lockdowns and wants to see societies and economies reopened and travel resumed.
“But right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing, and people are dying — and it’s totally avoidable," he said.
Tedros said the decline in cases and hospitalizations the world saw at the beginning of the year show the virus can be stopped.
With equitably distributed vaccines and consistent public health measures, he said, “we could bring the pandemic under control in a matter of months. Whether we do or not comes down to the decisions and the actions that governments and individuals make every day.”