Nonessential businesses may need to shut down again as coronavirus outbreaks in the US worsen, according to the World Health Organization.
While WHO hopes that most countries would no longer need to implement nationwide lockdowns, the rise of COVID-19 cases may require stricter mitigation measures again. The spike in cases is present across the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the US and Europe.
“We’re well behind this virus,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a press conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “We will have to get ahead of this virus, and [that] may require sacrifice for many, many people in terms of their personal lives.”
“It may require shutting down and restricting movement and having stay-at-home orders in order to take the heat out of this phase of the pandemic,” he said.
Meanwhile, at least seven countries outside the US posted record highs in average daily new infections on Sunday, based on a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The new cases in Europe have overtaken that in the US, with Europe recording 324 new COVID-19 infections per 1 million people, based on a seven-day average, compared with 209 new Covid-19 cases per 1 million people in the US.
Europe, including 27 European Union countries and the UK, has nearly 168,000 new COVID-19 infections daily.
Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of the WHO’s Europe office, believes that the cause of the increase of new coronavirus cases is the public’s lack of compliance when it comes to health and safety protocols.
According to Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead, Europe is not only seeing an increase in coronavirus cases. It faces an increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
“We know of a number of cities across Europe where ICU capacity will be reached in the coming weeks,” Kerkhove said Friday during a press briefing at WHO’s Geneva headquarters. “That is concerning as we approach the flu season.”
Health authorities have warned that they are gearing up for the two bad viruses that would spread as the coronavirus outbreak bleeds in the flu season. Kerkhove asked people to “rally” together, adding the world is not in the same condition six months ago.
“We know so much more,” she said. “There is a lot of comparisons now versus what we were seeing in March. But the massive difference right now is that we have testing capacity increased, we have a public health workforce that has increased compared to where we were in March, we have medical facilities who have beds who are better trained and have better experience of dealing with Covid-19.”
In September, WHO reminds countries to continue observing health protocols to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“The more control countries have over the virus, the more they can open up. Opening up without having control is a recipe for disaster,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual news briefing from the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. “No country can just pretend the pandemic is over.”
Tedros mentioned the “four essential things that all countries, communities, and individuals must focus on to take control.” According to him, countries must “prevent amplifying events,” such as gatherings at stadiums, nightclubs, and worship sites. He noted that countries and people can come up with “creative ways” to be social.