Story at a glance

  • WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said transmission is being driven by “complacency and inconsistency in public health measures.”
  • Tedros said several countries in Asia and the Middle East have seen large increases in new cases.
  • He said the pandemic is a long way from over but added it could be brought under control in the coming months if people and governments couple vaccines with proven public health measures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the global coronavirus pandemic is “growing exponentially” and called on the public to continue practicing measures such as social distancing and mask wearing even as vaccines are rolled out. 

During a news conference Monday, WHO officials said there have been seven consecutive weeks of increasing COVID-19 cases and four weeks of increasing deaths worldwide. More than 4.4 million new cases were reported in the last week.


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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said transmission is being driven by “complacency and inconsistency in public health measures.” 

“We too want to see societies and economies reopening and travel and trade resuming. But right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing and people are dying - and it’s totally unavoidable,” Tedros said

“In some countries, despite continuing transmission, restaurants and nightclubs are full, markets are open and crowded with few people taking precautions.”

Tedros said several countries in Asia and the Middle East have seen large increases in new cases. India just recently surpassed Brazil and became the country with the second highest total number of infections after the U.S. 

He said the pandemic is a long way from over but added it could be brought under control in the coming months if people and governments couple vaccines with proven public health measures, such as physical distancing, hand washing and mask wearing. The warning comes as countries are easing their restrictions and could prolong the crisis. 

“Right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing and people are dying and it’s totally avoidable,” Tedros said. “The COVID-19 pandemic is a long way from over. But we have many reasons for optimism. The decline in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO team leader on COVID-19, said during the briefing the pandemic was growing exponentially as there was a 9 percent increase in cases last week with a five percent rise in deaths. 

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic where we have proven control measures. It is time right now where everyone has to take stock and have a reality check about what we need to be doing,” Van Kerkhove said. 

While more than 22 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated and 36 percent have received at least one dose of a two-dose vaccine, the country is reporting about 70,000 new infections per day, a level in line with last summer’s surge. 


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Published on Apr 12, 2021