WHO chief: Pandemic 'going to get worse and worse and worse'

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Monday that the coronavirus pandemic is raging out of control in North and South America, and that the virus will continue spreading unimpeded unless governments and individuals take the steps needed to suppress its transmission.

Nearly 13 million people worldwide have tested positive for COVID-19, and about half of those cases — 6.5 million — have been in the Americas. On Saturday, almost 143,000 of the world's 230,000 new cases were in North and South America.

"The epicenter of the virus remains in the Americas, where more than 50 percent of the world's cases have been recorded," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters Monday. "It would appear that many countries are losing gains made as proven measures to reduce risk are not implemented or followed."

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European countries confirmed just 18,804 new cases on Saturday. African nations reported 17,884 new cases, and Southeast Asian nations reported 33,173 new cases — the vast majority of which were confirmed in India, which is struggling with its own major outbreak.

Global health officials have stressed repeatedly that the virus will continue to spread until an effective vaccine is available. They point to countries that have wrangled the virus under control through robust, if basic, practices of testing, tracing and isolating those who have been infected or exposed to the virus.

Without those steps, Tedros warned, life will not return to normal anytime soon.

"If the basics aren't followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go: It is going to get worse, and worse, and worse," Tedros said. "There will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future. But there is a roadmap to a situation where we can control the disease and get on with our lives."

Six months after the first identified case was confirmed in Washington state, the United States is now the hardest hit of any country in the world. The nation reported 66,281 new cases on Saturday, and 57,789 on Sunday.

More than 135,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19.

Brazil, the next-hardest hit country, reported 45,000 new cases on Saturday. More than 70,000 people in Brazil have died of the disease.

"Let me be blunt: Too many countries are headed in the wrong direction. The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this," Tedros said. "It's never too late to take decisive action."