INTERNATIONAL

WHO calls for ‘aggressive action’ and ‘global solidarity’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries grappling with COVID-19 to step up control measures, saying it is still possible to rein it in, as some nations clamp fresh restrictions on citizens.

With case numbers worldwide more than doubling in the past six weeks, Uzbekistan on Friday returned to lockdown and Hong Kong said schools would close from Monday after the city recorded “exponential growth” in locally transmitted infections. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to adopt an aggressive approach, highlighting Italy, Spain, South Korea and India’s biggest slum to show it was possible to stop the spread, no matter how bad the outbreak.

The health agency’s comments came as U.S. President Donald Trump was forced to cancel an election rally in New Hampshire, citing an approaching storm.

Mr. Trump has pushed to hold large gatherings against health advice as epidemiologists warn of the dangers posed by the virus moving through the air in crowded and confined spaces.

Trump hits out at China

On a visit to Florida on Friday, Mr. Trump hit out at Beijing over the pandemic. “(The) relationship with China has been severely damaged. They could have stopped the plague.. They didn’t stop it,” he told reporters.

The virus has killed at least 5,56,140 people worldwide since it emerged in China last December. More than 12.3 million cases have been registered in 196 countries and territories, triggering massive economic damage.

The U.S., the country worst hit by the illness, reported almost 64,000 new cases on Friday and the death toll now stands at just under 1,34,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. Brazil, the second-hardest hit, surpassed 70,000 deaths and reported 45,000 new infections, the Health Ministry said.

“Across all walks of life, we are all being tested to the limit,” the WHO’s Mr. Tedros told a virtual news conference in Geneva. “From countries where there is exponential growth, to places that are loosening restrictions and now starting to see cases rise. Only aggressive action combined with national unity and global solidarity can turn this pandemic around,” he said.

In Australia, meanwhile, authorities said they would slash by half the number of people allowed to return from overseas. From Monday, only 4,000 Australian citizewill be permitted to enter each day.

Recommended for you