WHO Official says Covid-19 may never go away, to be managed like HIV
Emergencies Chief of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Michael Ryan, has warned that coronavirus “may never go away” as WHO’s experts predicted that a global mental health crisis caused by the pandemic was looming.
“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” said Ryan, the WHO emergencies chief.
“I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be,” he said.
The global health body on Wednesday cautioned against trying to predict how long coronavirus would keep circulating, and called for a “massive effort” to overcome it.
A report by the WHO’s mental health department to the UN warned of another looming crisis: “The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” said the department’s director, Devora Kestel. She said the world could expect to see an upsurge in the severity of mental illness, including amongst children, young people and healthcare workers.
“The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently,” she said.
The statements came as Russia became the nation with the second highest number of infections at 242,271, behind the US with just under 1.4 million. The official death toll in Russia is 2,212, although authorities ascribed the deaths of more than 60% of coronavirus patients in April to other causes. Moscow, the centre of the country’s outbreak, accounted for 1,232 of those deaths. Tatyana Golikova, Russia’s health minister, denied any falsification of the statistics.
In South Korea, 24,000 people have been tested in relation to the Seoul nightclub cluster, which prompted the closure of bars and entertainment venues in the capital, according to the city’s mayor. Cases linked to the cluster have grown to 120.
Japan was expected to lift the state of emergency for 39 of its 47 prefectures on Thursday, local media reported, while the capital Tokyo is set to keep restrictions in place until it sees a convincing containment of the coronavirus.
While the nation has avoided the kind of explosive growth seen elsewhere, its testing has also been among the lowest, at 188 tests per 100,000 people, versus 3,159 in Italy and 3,044 in Germany. Hardest-hit Tokyo has conducted just 50,000 tests so far, of which about 5,000 were positive. With hospitals still stretched, the capital and surrounding prefectures are set to remain in a state of emergency.
Brazil has registered a record number of new cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, surpassing France’s tally to become the sixth-worst hit country, as the disease sends the economy toward its worst year since at least 1900.
The government confirmed 11,385 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing its total count to 188,974 cases of the coronavirus since the outbreak began. Early on Wednesday, France revised its total number of confirmed and suspected cases down 0.3% to 177,700.
In other coronavirus developments:
China reported three new cases of Covid-19, all locally acquired, and no new deaths or suspected cases.
Stock markets in Asia reacted poorly to Powell and the WHO’s comments and on a worries about a second wave of infections. Japan’s Nikkei fell 07%, while indexes in Australia, Hong Kong, Korea and China all fell about 1%. But Australia reported an unemployment rate of 6.2%, which was lower than expected.
Only 5% of Spain’s population has been infected by the novel coronavirus, though that figure climbs to more than 10% in Madrid and areas in the centre of the country, according to a study released by the government on Wednesday.
South Africa will further loosen a nationwide coronavirus lockdown later this month as the number of confirmed cases crept over 12,000, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday. It came as Lesotho, which is landlocked by South Africa and was the last African country to have been unaffected, announced its first case of Covid-19.
New Zealand’s finance minister unveiled a NZ$50m fund to save jobs over the next four years.
Hong Kong will screen hundreds of families, local media reported, after its 23-day run of no local infections was broken with the diagnosis of Covid-19 in a 66-year-old woman with no recent travel history, and her five-year-old granddaughter. Several other members of the family were reportedly also showing symptoms.