‘The virus remains public enemy No. 1, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this…’
(Headline USA) Next to Chinese President Xi Jinping, few bear as much responsibility as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the United Nations-backed World Health Organization, for enabling the spread of the deadly coronavirus outside of China in December 2019 and January 2020.
Tedros, who maintains close ties with the communist Chinese government, initially downplayed the risk, urging world leaders to do the same.
While giving China the opportunity to stockpile pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment, as well as to manipulate the messaging about its role in the pandemic, the silence during the critical early-response time allowed the virus to spread silently while catching areas from Italy to New York City entirely off-guard and unprepared.
The result, a catastrophic shutdown that tanked the world economy, was set into motion by the organization’s dramatic about-face in declaring it a global pandemic in early March.
President Donald Trump has vocally denounced both China and the WHO for intentionally misleading the world and announced last week that the US would formally withdraw its support for and participation in the organization.
But, unsurprisingly, Xi and Tedros have aggressively sought to deflect blame.
The WHO chief on Monday slammed some government leaders for eroding public trust by sending mixed messages on the coronavirus and warned that their failures to stop their countries’ spiraling outbreaks mean there would be no return to normal “for the foreseeable future.”
He did not call out specific politicians for criticism but said “too many countries are headed in the wrong direction” with the pandemic and some were not taking the proper steps to curb infections.
At the same time, Tedros acknowledged how difficult it was for governments to respond effectively, given the economic, social and cultural consequences of imposing restrictions.
“The virus remains public enemy No. 1, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this,” he said.
The director-general’s remarks to reporters in Geneva came a day after WHO reported yet another worldwide record of more than 230,000 confirmed cases in 24 hours.
Ten countries accounted for 80% of the daily tally reported Sunday, and more than half of the new confirmed cases came from the United States and Brazil alone.
The U.N. health agency said government and individual responses should depend on local conditions—namely, whether there is widespread community spread of the virus.
Tedros claimed some nations are playing “political football” by calling for schools to reopen without having broader control measures in place such as keeping shops closed or limiting public gatherings.
“Mixed messages from leaders are undermining the most critical ingredient of any response: trust,” he said Monday, adding that governments should communicate clearer public health messages and individuals should maintain social distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing and staying home when they have COVID-19 symptoms.
Without applying basic outbreak-control methods, “there is only one way this pandemic is going to go,” WHO chief Tedros cautioned.
“It’s going to get worse and worse and worse,” he said, continuing with a blunt warning. “There will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future.”
Still, WHO pointed to a sign of hope in countries that had experienced massive outbreaks and death tolls and managed to get the virus under control.
Amid a debate in places like the United States about whether schools can reopen, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said any such decisions require a broader outlook that takes into account how workplaces or long-term care facilities operate, too.
“We can’t turn schools into yet another political football in this game. It’s not fair on our children,” Ryan said. “We have to make decisions that are based on the best interests of our children, be it their educational or their health interests.”
Trump has pressured school districts in America to reopen this fall, threatening to cut off funding for ones that don’t comply.
Other top administration officials, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, have agreed.
Despite the fearmongering from the so-called scientific community, one clear conclusion from researching the virus is that children without underlying health conditions are neither vulnerable to the virus nor are they the source for spreading it.
DeVos said that like most other health outbreaks, schools could not let temporary spikes dictate the school policies and schedules for populations and areas where transmission is low-risk.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.