“But when the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready, more ready than it was this time.”
Ghebreyesus noted that more countries need to prioritize their basic public-health systems, which can be viewed as “an investment in a healthier and safer future.”
“Public health is the foundation of social, economic and political stability,” he said.
“That means investing in population-based services for preventing, detecting and responding to diseases. I call on all countries to invest in public health, and especially primary health care.”
Now more than eight months into the global pandemic, there are roughly 27.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, including at least 894,000 related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
The WHO said that more than 1.8 million new cases and 37,000 related deaths were reported during the week ending September 6—marking a 5 percent rise in the number of cases and a 2 percent decrease in the number of fatalities compared to the week before.
In the Americas, deaths fell 4 percent, but the WHO asserted that the region “continues to carry the highest burden of the disease globally, accounting for nearly half of all new cases reported in the past seven days.”
The WHO had previously urged countries to not become complacent and stated that “no country can just pretend the pandemic is over.”
Ghebreyesus pressed countries, communities, and the general public to adhere to four key steps: prevent amplifying events, protect vulnerable people, take individual steps like social distancing and wearing masks, and find, isolate, and care for cases while tracing their contacts.
He added that by improving upon targeted responses to outbreaks, governments don’t necessarily have to rely on stay-at-home directives and further business shutdowns.
“The more control countries have over the virus, the more they can open up. Opening up without having control is a recipe for disaster,” Ghebreyesus said.
“If countries are serious about opening up, they must be serious about suppressing transmission and saving lives. This may seem like an impossible balance, but it’s not. It can be done, and it has been done.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.