- There's already a playbook for what works well to stop the virus, but not everyone is using it, the WHO said.
- The multi-pronged strategy includes widespread testing, tracing, and continued vigilance with social distancing when new clusters of cases emerge.
- "Every politician needs to look in the mirror and say, 'am I doing enough to stop this virus?'" the WHO's executive director of health emergencies said.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .
It's been six months since the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a global health emergency , but on Monday the WHO warned the world to prepare for a "long haul" ahead.
"The worst is yet to come," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on a call with reporters from Geneva. "I'm sorry to say that. But, with this kind of environment and condition, we fear the worst."
The WHO stressed repeatedly on the call that not all countries are combatting the new virus with the same levels of success, or vigilance. With more than half of the 10 million coronavirus cases to date and almost half of the 500,000 deaths worldwide centered in the Americas, there's a lot more that both governments and individuals in overburdened countries like the US and Brazil could be doing to stop this virus.
"We all want this to be over, we all want to get on with our lives, but the hard reality is this is not even close to being over," Tedros said. "Although many countries have made some progress, globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up."
Without naming any names, Tedros chided many countries for not doing more to stop the spread of the virus, as world economies reopen.
"This could have been prevented through the tools that we have at hand," Tedros said of the virus' current spread. "Time after time and country after country, what we have seen is this virus can be suppressed if the governments are serious about the things they have to do their share and if the community can do its share."
Some countries are able to "pounce on disease" better than others
The WHO applauded previously hard-hit countries like South Korea and China, and others that have dealt with recent recurrences of the virus, including Germany, Singapore, and Japan, saying that coronavirus vigilance requires a concerted effort on the part of both politicians, and citizens at large.
Many of the most successful coronavirus-fighting countries have adopted a multi-layered public health approach that allows them "to pounce on disease" quickly and effectively when and where it re-emerges, the WHO's Mike Ryan, executive director of the agency's Health Emergencies Program, said.
"What you have to do is push the disease down to the lowest possible level," he said, stressing that, in addition to more nationwide testing and tracing, and good public health surveillance systems, the most successful coronavirus-fighting strategies rely on diligent citizens who stay home when transmission is widespread.
"Communities have made a huge sacrifice for that to happen. They're staying at home, they're staying away from their families, they've contributed tremendously to suppressing infection," Ryan said.
But that's not been case across much of the US, where many basic public health measures, such as wearing a mask to prevent asymptomatic virus spread, and staying home when the virus is spreading in a community , have been couched as political choices .
One non-partisan Pew Research Center poll conducted earlier this month found that a majority of Republican and "Republican-leaning" independents surveyed considered that the very worst of the coronavirus outbreak "is behind us," while less than a quarter of Democrats and Democratic-leaning survey participants said the same.
"We cannot continue to allow the fight against this virus to become and be sustained as an ideologic fight," Ryan said. "We cannot beat this virus with ideologies. We simply cannot."
Increasingly, top health officials and politicians on both sides of the aisle in the US have been encouraging people (including the President) to wear masks when out in public, as they can be an additional measure to help prevent the disease from spreading to healthy people, especially from asymptomatic spreaders who may feel perfectly healthy. (President Trump has said from the first day that the federal government started recommending face coverings that "I don't see it for myself.")
Meanwhile, some state governors are starting to allow cities and local communities more control over their own virus precautions, as more cases of the virus sprout up in some heavily populated areas of the US .
"Every individual needs to look in the mirror and say, 'am I doing enough?'" Ryan said. "And every politician needs to look in the mirror and say, 'am I doing enough to stop this virus?'"
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