An exterior view of the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo: CGTN)
"Upticks" in COVID-19 cases are being seen in countries that are easing lockdowns, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday. It urged populations to protect themselves from the coronavirus while authorities continue testing.
The epicenter of the pandemic is currently in countries of Central, South and North America, particularly the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said.
"On upticks (in cases), yes, we have seen in countries around the world - I'm not talking specifically about Europe - when the lockdowns ease, when the social distancing measures ease, people sometimes interpret this as 'OK, it's over'," Harris told a UN briefing in Geneva.
"It's not over. It's not over until there is no virus anywhere in the world," she said.
Many countries that had previously entered lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus have either relaxed some restrictions or lifted lockdowns all together, but among these countries some are still seeing an upward trend in daily confirmed cases. In the United States, almost all states are reopening economy but only a handful of them have seen a persistent downward trend since the decisions to lift lockdowns were given.
Harris, referring to U.S. demonstrations since the killing of George Floyd 10 days ago, she said that protesters must take precautions. "We have certainly seen a lot of passion this week, we've seen people who have felt the need to be out and to express their feelings," she added. "We ask them to remember still protect yourself and others."
To avoid infection, the WHO advised people to maintain a distance of at least one metre (three feet), frequently wash hands and avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes, Harris said.
The nationwide protests over racial injustice currently unfolding in the United States have spread globally. People in countries from New Zealand to the UK have taken to the streets in support of U.S. demonstrators, but officials from each country urged protesters to avoid these large gatherings.
So far, more than 6.7 million people have been diagnosed with the disease and some 390,000 deaths have been reported around the world.
WHO guidance update
The health organization also updated its guidance on Friday to recommend that governments ask people wear fabric face masks in public places to curb the spread of the pandemic COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus.
It says the widespread use of face masks or coverings by the general public is still not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence, but a growing amount of observational evidence from several countries that have ordered or recommended the wearing of masks, as well as the difficulty of social distancing in many settings, is enough for it to change its advice.
The WHO recommends the wearing of non-medical masks by:
- Everyone in public settings such as stores, at work, social or mass gatherings, and in closed settings such as schools or places of worship.
- People living in cramped conditions, such as in refugee camps or slums.
- On public transport.
Because of the risk of diverting critical resources from health workers, the WHO says medical masks should be reserved for healthcare professionals and people in at-risk groups. Everyone else should use what it terms non-medical or fabric masks. Here is some of its advice on mask choice:
- Choose materials that capture droplets but remain easy to breathe through.
- Avoid stretchy materials, because stretching may increase pore sizes, and preferably use a fabric that can be washed at 60C (140F) or higher.
- A minimum of three layers is needed, including an absorbent inner layer, touching the mouth, and a synthetic outer layer that does not easily absorb water.
- Wash frequently, at the highest temperature possible, and don't share.