WHO Health Emergencies Programme head Michael Ryan attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland July 3, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
GENEVA - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday urged countries hit by coronavirus disease to "wake up" to the pandemic situation on the ground and to "take control" of the spread of the virus.
"People need to wake up. The data is not lying. The situation on the ground is not lying," Michael Ryan, WHO emergencies director, told reporters here.
So far, the coronavirus disease has infected at least 10.8 million people and killed over 521,000 worldwide. The Americas are the hardest-hit region with most cases and deaths registered in the United States.
Noting that "too many countries are ignoring what the data is telling them", the WHO official said "it is never too late in an epidemic to take control".
Ryan has been at the forefront of managing acute risks to global health for nearly 25 years.
"There are good economic reasons that the countries need to bring their economies back online," he said. "It is understandable, but you can't ignore the problem either. The problem will not magically go away."
The public health expert said strict social-distancing measures are "unavoidable" in areas where the virus is spreading uncontrollably.
"If countries proceed with opening up without the capacity to cope with the likely caseload, then you end up in a worst-case scenario," Ryan warned. "If the health system stops coping, more people will die."