Not just the elderly: ‘COVID-19 affecting everyone’—WHO Director

Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus (Photo: Twitter @DrTedros)

Contrary to previous assumptions the global phase of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) chief of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus says the pandemic is no longer just deadly for the elderly, but just about everyone, even children are now susceptible.

Speaking at it’s a virtual media briefing in Geneva on Monday (March 16) the WHO Director-General bemoaned the glacial pace at which testing was being done in several countries across the world. He compared it to the rate of infection which has swelled exponentially in the past weeks.

“In the past week we have seen a rapid escalation of cases of COVID-19. More cases and deaths have now been reported in the rest of the world than in China. We have also seen a rapid escalation in social distancing measures like closing school and public events and other gatherings,” Ghebreyesus began.

“But we have not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the response. As I keep saying, all countries must take a comprehensive approach. The most effective way to prevent infection and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. To do that, you must test and isolate,” he argued.

While Ghebreyesus did not single out any specific country, critics have slammed the now-reeling US and UK for their slow response to the outbreak. In the initial stages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) limited testing to people who had recently travelled to China and showed symptoms, or people who were symptomatic and exposed to someone with a confirmed case.

Workers in South Korea, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, disinfect a subway station in Seoul to slow the virus’s spread. (Photo: Science News)

The UK, previously enacting a ‘herd immunity’ tactic in its national response to the health crisis, has since urged Britons to stay indoors as it ramps up its testing output.

While its findings still place immunocompromised, immunosuppressed and the elderly at the top of the risk pyramid, the WHO head reiterated that from what he’s seeing, no single age group is less vulnerable as the disease spreads like wildfire.

“Once again, our key message is test, test, test. This is a serious disease. Also, the evidence we have suggests that those over 60 are at highest risk. Young people, including children, have died,” he said.

To date, there have been 179,256 confirmed cases and over 7,000 deaths related to COVID-19 across 163 countries and territories worldwide. In the last 24-hours, new cases spiked by 9,696.

In the Caribbean as of 12:03 pm Atlantic Standard Time (AST), there were at least 73 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across 19 countries and territories.