Saturday, 26 Sep 2020

WHO hopes pandemic will end in under 2 years

GENEVA • The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it hopes the planet will be rid of the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years – faster than it took for the Spanish flu.

“We hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Friday in Geneva, hours before the global death toll from Covid-19 topped 800,000.

Dr Tedros insisted that it should be possible for the world to tame the coronavirus faster than it took for it to bring the deadly 1918 pandemic under control.

Compared with back then, the world today is at a disadvantage due to its “globalisation, closeness, connectedness”, which has allowed the virus to spread around the globe at lightning speed, Dr Tedros acknowledged, but added that the world now also has the advantage of far better technology.

By “utilising the available tools to the maximum and hoping that we can have additional tools like vaccines, I think we can finish it in a shorter time than the 1918 flu”, he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has to date killed more than 800,000 people and infected more than 23 million worldwide.

But the deadliest pandemic in modern history, the Spanish flu, killed as many as 50 million victims and infected around 500 million globally between February 1918 and April 1920.

Five times more people died from the illness than there were casualties from World War I. The first victims were recorded in the United States, before it spread to Europe and then around the world.

That pandemic came in three waves, with the deadliest second wave beginning in the latter half of 1918. “It took three waves for the disease to infect most of the susceptible individuals,” WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan told journalists.

After that, the flu virus behind the pandemic evolved into a far less deadly seasonal bug, which returned for decades.

“Very often, a pandemic virus settles into a seasonal pattern over time,” Dr Ryan said.

He warned, though, that so far, “this virus is not displaying a similar wave-like pattern”.

“Clearly, when the disease is not under control, it jumps straight back up,” he said.

In the current pandemic, Latin America and the Caribbean is now the worst-hit region, with about 255,000 Covid-19 deaths. More than half of the global fatalities have been reported in four countries – the United States, Brazil, Mexico and India.

The total number of deaths has doubled since June 6, and 100,000 have been recorded in the last 17 days alone. The global toll reached 400,000 some 147 days after the announcement of the first fatality in China, but took just 77 days to reach 800,000.

The US reported the most fatalities over the past week, with nearly 7,000 deaths, followed by Brazil, India, Mexico and Colombia.

Belgium remains the country with the greatest number of deaths per capita – 86 for every 100,000 inhabitants – followed by Peru, Spain, Britain and Italy.

India crossed three million infections yesterday, just 13 days after logging two million cases.

Yesterday, Germany recorded its highest number of new cases in over four months as the authorities boosted testing and summer travellers returned home. German cases rose by over 2,000, the most since April, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute, the German government’s monitoring agency.

But Europe’s renewed surge of coronavirus cases seems to be less deadly than the first wave. Germany yesterday reported just seven deaths linked to virus complications.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

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