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Coronavirus pandemic by far WHO’s worst global health emergency: director-general

Coronavirus: WHO says global supply of COVID-19 vaccine will be future challenge
WATCH: WHO says global supply of COVID-19 vaccine will be future challenge

The new coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 16 million people is easily the worst global health emergency the World Health Organization (WHO) has faced, its director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

Only with strict adherence to health measures, from wearing masks to avoiding crowds, would the world be able to beat it, Tedros added at a virtual news briefing in Geneva.

Read more: 2nd wave of coronavirus in countries around Asia prompts fresh lockdowns

“Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up,” he said, praising Canada, China, Germany and South Korea for controlling outbreaks.

Resurgences of the coronavirus in various regions, including where nations thought they had controlled the disease, are alarming the world, with deaths nearing 650,000.

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WHO emergencies program head Mike Ryan said far more important than definitions of second waves, new peaks and localized clusters, was the need for nations around the world to keep up strict health restrictions such as physical distancing.

Coronavirus: WHO official stresses importance of ‘global political commitment’ once vaccine is developed
Coronavirus: WHO official stresses importance of ‘global political commitment’ once vaccine is developed

“What is clear is pressure on the virus pushes the numbers down. Release that pressure and cases creep back up,” he said, acknowledging, however, that it was virtually impossible for nations to keep borders shut for the foreseeable future.

Tedros emphasized the priority remained saving lives.

“We have to suppress transmission but at the same time we have to identify the vulnerable groups and save lives, keeping the death rates if possible to zero, if not to a minimum,” he said, praising Japan and Australia in that respect.