WHO Chief Is ‘Deeply Concerned’ About The Rapid Spread of Coronavirus

Medical staff collect a patient from an ambulance at the second Covid-19 hospital in the Columbus unit on March 17, 2020, in Rome, Italy.
Antonio Masiello / Getty Images

As the number of worldwide coronavirus cases creeps close to 1 million and deaths reach nearly 50,000, the head of the World Health Organization says that he is “deeply concerned” about the “rapid escalation and global spread” of COVID-19.

Fox News reports that WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus held a virtual press conference from the organization’s Geneva headquarters, where he talked about the number of cases of the disease and the difficulty in keeping up with the evolving knowledge about how the virus functions.

“Over the past five weeks, we have witnessed a near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country, territory, and area,” Tedros said.

He also stated that he believes that the number of global cases will pass 1 million and that deaths will pass 50,000 in the near future.

The virus was only formally recognized late last year, and since then, experts have been learning a great deal about it, but there are still a number of unknown factors that create a real challenge in dealing with COVID-19, Tedros said.

“Every day, our staff talk to thousands of experts around the world to collect and distill that evidence and experience,” he added. “We constantly review and update our guidance as we learn more, and we are working to adapt it for specific contexts.”

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who is leading the WHO’s response to the pandemic, weighed in on the outbreak as well.

“COVID-19 is a real threat,” she said. “It is a real threat to everyone on the planet.”

In the United States, the virus has reached all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. The country has just over 215,000 confirmed cases and has had over 5,300 deaths due to the virus. The United States has nearly double the number of cases as the second-most infected country, Italy, which has had over 115,000 cases and nearly 14,000 deaths. The country recently reported over 1,000 deaths in one day for the first time — a dramatic increase as the virus spreads rapidly.

France and Spain have also seen an intense outbreak.

To address the pandemic, countries such as China and Italy have issued quarantine restrictions to limit its spread. In the U.S., the decision to issue stay-at-home orders is up to individual states, and two-thirds of them have issued lockdown orders.

The most recent previous global pandemic was the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak, which resulted in the deaths of over 18,000 people.