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WHO Urges World's Leaders to Act as COVID-19 Cases Surge

FILE - Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, attends a session on the coronavirus outbreak response of the WHO Executive Board in Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 5, 2020. (Reuters)

Noting the world is at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization is urging nations to take immediate action to prevent unnecessary deaths, the collapse of essential health systems and the shutdown of economies.

Speaking at the agency's headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said too many countries, particularly in the northern hemisphere, are seeing an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases forcing hospitals and intensive care units to run near or above capacity.

He called on governments to take key actions immediately to prevent the crisis from spinning out of control.

First, the WHO chief said leaders need to make an honest assessment of the COVID-19 outbreak in their countries. For those nations who have successfully brought it under control, he suggested they "double down" to keep transmissions low, identify cases and clusters, and be ready to act.

Second, Tedros said nations who see a rising number of cases, hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions should do whatever they can to address the upward trend as quickly as possible.

Third, the director-general urged leaders to be clear and honest with their constituents about the status of the pandemic in their country and outline the steps required to fight the spread. He said this action requires putting systems in place to make it easy for citizens to comply with the COVID-19-related measures.

Finally, Tedros said governments need to reach out to people and their families who are infected with the virus to give them specific instructions on their next steps.

The WHO director said if leaders follow the steps and fine tune their contact tracing and isolating programs, then future shutdowns and stay-at-home orders can be avoided.