The Covid-19 pandemic has killed more than 500,000 and the “worst is yet to come” in the absence of global solidarity, WHO warned on Monday. The organization based in the canton of Geneva sends a team to China to determine the origin of the virus.
“We can fight the virus better when we know everything about the virus, including how it started,” said Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a virtual press conference. .
“We will send a team to China next week to prepare for this and we hope it will help us understand how the virus started and what we can do in the future to prepare for it,” he said. .
Six months after China officially reported the disease in Wuhan in December, the new coronavirus has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide.
The work of researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology has shown that the genome sequence of the new coronavirus is 80% similar to that of SARS, which caused a previous epidemic in 2002-2003, and 96% to that of a bat coronavirus.
The vast majority of researchers agree that the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus – the cause of the pandemic – was probably born in bats, but scientists think it has passed by another species, not yet known, before being transmitted to humans.
It is this piece of the puzzle that the international scientific community and the WHO hope to discover in order to better understand what happened, to better target risky practices and avoid a new pandemic. The debate on the origin of the virus also has diplomatic repercussions, the United States accusing the Chinese laboratory, in Wuhan, of being at the origin of the coronavirus which Beijing denies.
‘Far from over’
“Tomorrow, six months will have passed since the WHO received the first reports concerning a group of pneumonia cases of unknown cause in China,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world, and our lives, would be upset by this new virus,” he added.
Six months later, more than 10 million cases have been identified, nearly half of which are now considered to be cured. “We all want it all to end. We all want to get on with our lives. But the harsh reality is that it is far from over,” said the head of the WHO. He also reiterated, as last week, that the pandemic is “accelerating” now. And faced with a “divided world” and “a lack of national unity and global solidarity, (…) the worst is yet to come,” he warned.
Stressing that a vaccine will be an “important tool” to control the virus in the long term, he called on governments and citizens to “give up hope” and to put in place “simple solutions” in order to “save lives now”.
He called on governments to “test, trace, isolate, and quarantine cases”, asking people to follow hygienic measures, wear a mask when necessary and respect the rules of distancing.
According to the Director-General of WHO, “the virus is spreading aggressively”. The United States is the most affected country, followed by Brazil, the United Kingdom, Italy and France. Brazil accounts for “one in 4 deaths of all deaths on the continent,” said Michael Ryan, director of health emergencies at WHO, urging the country to further unify its efforts against the coronavirus.