WHO chief hails Johnson's 'strong and precise' North England lockdown and says world showing 'green shoots of hope'

THE World Health Organisation chief has praised Boris Johnson for his decision to reimpose tough restrictions in parts of northern England as he urged countries to "suppress, suppress, suppress" the virus.

Last week the PM tight restrictions were reintroduced for around five million people living in East Lancashire, Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire after a coronavirus spike.

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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, today praised Mr Johnson for his swift action in trying to curb the upsurge of cases in the North West.

It comes as the WHO said the global death toll from coronavirus will surpass 750,000 this week.

And the number of cases around the world will reach 20 million.

Dr Tedros told a virtual press briefing today: "This week we will reach 20 million registered cases of Covid-19 and 750,000 deaths.

"Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering. Every life lost matters."

He added: "Countries like France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Italy, and the UK had major outbreaks of the virus but when they took action, they were able to suppress it.

"Many countries globally are now using all the tools at their disposal to tackle any new spikes.

"Over the last few days, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put areas of northern England under stay-at-home notifications, as clusters of cases were identified.

"In France, President Macron introduced compulsory masking in busy outdoor spaces of Paris in response to an increase in cases.

"Strong and precise measures like these, in combination with utilising every tool at our disposal, are key to preventing any resurgence in disease and allowing societies to be reopened safely."



He said that as countries reopen, parts of society, including schools, "must remain vigilant for potential clusters of the virus".

Dr Tedros added: "We all want to see schools safely reopened but we also need to ensure that students, staff and faculty are safe. The foundation for this is adequate control of transmission at the community."

However, he said he saw "green shoots of hope".

"My message is crystal clear: suppress, suppress, suppress the virus.

"If we suppress the virus effectively, we can safely open up societies."

Meanwhile Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's health emergencies programme, said he believed a safe and effective vaccine would be found.

But he said even with a vaccine, there would still be challenges.

"I believe we will get vaccines that are both safe and effective," he said.

"The challenge is going to be scaling up to production, allocating those vaccines in a way that does the most good around the world, stops this virus to the greatest extent possible, paying for all of that and preparing national systems to deliver this.

"We have perfectly effective polio vaccines, perfectly effective measles vaccines and we still struggle to eradicate or eliminate disease.

"So having an effective vaccine is only part of the answer. You have to have enough of that vaccine, the right people have got to have access to that vaccine and you've got to be able to deliver that vaccine to a population that want and demand to have that vaccine."

But he warned people are at "greater and greater" risk of viruses which can cross the animal-human species barrier.

He told the briefing: "Let's face this – we live in a planet in which we're adding billions of people a decade, we are densely packed, we're exploiting pristine environments, we are creating and driving the ecologic pressure that is creating the risks that are driving the risk of the animal-human species barrier."

Mr Ryan added: "It's brutal in its simplicity, it is brutal in its cruelty, but it doesn't have a brain. We have the brains…we can outsmart something that doesn't have a brain but we are not doing such a great job right now."

Meanwhile, Dr Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead for Covid-19, added that everyone needs to understand their role in breaking the transmission chain of the virus.

"There are many, many, many things that we can do right now with the tools that we have to outsmart this virus," she said.

Contact tracing, isolation of people with symptoms, social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing are among some of the measures, she said.

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