The World Health Organization’s executive director has warned that the world remains in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak as countries continue to struggle to contain it and others rapidly reopen even as cases rise.
“We’re right in the middle of the first wave globally, Dr. Mike Ryan said. “We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up.”
Ryan said cases were climbing in South America, South Asia and in other regions. He said, “The disease can jump up at any time” and warned North America, Europe, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world not to relax coronavirus control measures too quickly.
Ryan, who heads the WHO’s emergencies program, issued the warning even before an expected second wave of cases months from now, fueling concerns of people who oppose rapid reopenings around the world.
Ryan’s comments diminish expectations for a swift worldwide economic recovery and renewed international global travel.
He spoke Monday when the United States, the leader in coronavirus infections and deaths, saw large crowds of people packing reopened public spaces such as beaches and national parks.
India is continuing to struggle with a spike in coronavirus cases. The country with a population of more than 1.3 billion people saw a record one-day increase in new infections for the seventh straight day.
India reported 6,535 new infections Tuesday, boosting its total to more than 146,000, including nearly 4,200 fatalities.
Despite the surge, India still allowed domestic flights to resume Monday after being suspended for two months.
Brazil is also grappling with a surge, as a new U.S. ban on travelers from the South American country goes into effect Tuesday, two days earlier than the White House initially announced, in an added effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Officials did not provide any specific reasons for moving up the ban from its planned Thursday start date.
It applies to foreigners entering the U.S. who have been in Brazil at some point during the prior 14 days. Health officials say it may take two- to 14 days before symptoms appear in someone who contracts COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Brazil has emerged as a new coronavirus hot spot, trailing only the U.S. in the number of confirmed cases, with close to 375,000, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.
The Brazilian health ministry said Monday that COVID-19 killed 807 people in the previous 24 hours. The one-day U.S. death toll was 620.
The White House said the travel ban “will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has similar travel bans in place on China, Iran, Britain, Ireland, and the 26 countries in Europe’s Schengen area.
Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has for months played down the seriousness of the coronavirus, urging businesses to reopen and dismissing many social distancing recommendations.
Bolsonaro has brushed off the virus as nothing more than “a little flu” and says a wrecked economy will kill more people than the illness. He has called Brazilians worried about the coronavirus neurotic.
The head of the World Health Organization said Monday the agency is pausing the use of hydroxychloroquine in its trials to find effective treatments for the coronavirus while experts review its safety.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cited a study published last week in the medical journal The Lancet in which the authors reported an estimated higher mortality rate among coronavirus patients who received the drug.
Tedros stressed the drug is “accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.”
WHO emergencies chief Ryan said there have been no problems with the drug in WHO trials so far, but that the pause was being done out of an abundance of caution.
Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as an effective coronavirus treatment and claims he has taken it even though he has not tested positive for the virus.
Saudi Arabia is set to relax some of its lockdown orders on Sunday, including lifting bans on domestic travel, holding prayers in mosques and dining in restaurants and cafes.
A statement posted by the state news agency Tuesday said all restrictions will end June 21, except for the city of Mecca. Saudi Arabia has more than 76,000 confirmed cases and 410 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracking site.
Chile reported a record daily high of 4,895 new cases. Public Works Minister Alfredo Moreno announced on Twitter that he was among those who have tested positive, although he said he has so far had no symptoms. Chile has around 74,000 cases and more than 760 deaths.