WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday said during the organization's latest Tuesday virtual news conference from its Geneva headquarters that "no country can just pretend the pandemic is over" as governments around the world ease social distancing restrictions and start to send children back to the classroom.
It's just the latest example of Dr. Tedros implicitly criticizing President Trump and his handling of the US outbreak, after Trump recently insisted that the virus is "under control" despite flare-ups in Sun Belt states.
"The more control countries have over the virus, the more they can open up. Opening up without having control is a recipe for disaster. It's not one size fits all, it's not all or nothing," Tedros said.
Dr. Tedros described "four essential things that all countries, communities, and individuals must focus on to take control" of the virus before they start to unwind their emergency measures.
First, prevent amplifying events. COVID-19 spreads very efficiently among clusters of people.
Second, reduce deaths by protecting vulnerable groups, including older people, those with underlying conditions, and essential workers.
Third, individuals must play their part by taking the measures we know work to protect themselves and others – stay at least one meter away from others, clean your hands regularly, practice respiratory etiquette, and wear a mask.
And fourth, governments must take tailored actions to find, isolate, test, and care for cases, and trace and quarantine contacts. Widespread stay-at-home orders can be avoided if countries take temporary and geographically-targeted interventions.
Individuals can minimize their chances of infection by avoiding the "three Cs", Dr. Tedros said: closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact environments.
Tedros also said countries should protect the most vulnerable people, including the elderly, those with underlying conditions, and essential workers to help save lives.
"If countries are serious about opening up, they must be serious about suppressing transmission and saving lives," he said. "This may seem like an impossible balance, but it's not. It can be done and it has been done."
The latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows more than 25 million people have been infected by COVID-19 and 848,000 have been killed globally. The US has been the epicenter of cases, reporting 6 million, along with most deaths, at 184,441.
Trump, who has a presidential election to win on Nov. 3, has continued to push headlines about 'breakthrough' treatments - example: convalescent plasma - and a stream of optimistic vaccine headlines as a way to pump markets and boost optimism among increasingly exasperated consumers as the president struggles to revitalize the American economy after one of the most brutal crashes in recent memory.
Dr. Tedros's remarks come as more public health 'experts' - including former FDA head Dr. Scott Gottlieb - slam President Trump for flirting with a new strategy of "herd immunity". Such a strategy would, in theory, avert any future lockdowns or rollbacks of virus-inspired restrictions in favor of pushing ahead with reopening the economy while protecting the most vulnerable patients. While the White House has denied claims that it is shifting its strategy, a new advisor named Dr. Scott Atlas is purportedly pushing the US to mimic the approach embraced by Sweden.