As the global Covid-19 case count approaches 20 million and deaths approach 750,000, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said the virus must be suppressed to safely reopen societies,
“I know many of you are grieving, and that this is a difficult moment for the world,” Tedros said during a news briefing in Geneva on Monday. “But I want to be clear: There are green shoots of hope and no matter where a country, a region, a city or a town it – it is never too late to turn the outbreak around.”
He said there are "two essential elements to effectively addressing the pandemic effectively."
“Leaders must step up to take action, and citizens need to embrace new measures,” he said.
Tedros highlighted countries such as New Zealand and Rwanda as examples of places that are doing well in the fight against Covid-19.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister celebrated 100 days with no community transmission but stressed the need to stay cautious, Tedros said. Rwanda is seeing progress due to a similar combination, he said. Testing and treatment for Covid-19 is free, people who test positive are isolated, and all their potential contacts are visited and tested by health workers.
“Getting the basics right provides a clear picture of where the virus is, and the necessary targeted actions to suppress transmission and save lives,” Tedros said.
He added that "even in countries where transmission is intense, it can be brought under control by applying an all-of-government, all-of-society response."
Using tools such as rapid case identification, contact tracing, adequate care for patients, physical distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene, chains of transmission have been broken.
“Whether countries or regions have successfully eliminated the virus, suppressed transmission to a low level, or are still in the midst of a major outbreak,” Tedros said, “now is the time to do it all – invest in the basics of public health, and we can save both lives and livelihoods.”
Countries that have successfully done this have been able to reopen parts of societies, including schools, with a risk-based approach; however they must stay vigilant for potential clusters of Covid-19.
Everyone wants to see schools reopen, Tedros said, but the safety of all those involved must also be ensured.
“My message is crystal clear: Suppress, suppress, suppress the virus,” Tedros said. “If we suppress the virus effectively, we can safely open up societies.”