Geneva (AFP) – The coronavirus pandemic has not yet peaked in the Americas, the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday, saying that global infections would likely reach 10 million in a week.
The WHO said the length and height of the peaks would be determined by government actions, without which a jolt toward blockages was inevitable.
The UN health agency also warned that at the current rate of new cases, a shortage of concentrators, devices that purify oxygen, is looming to help critically ill patients.
“In the first month of this outbreak, fewer than 10,000 cases were reported to the WHO. In the last month, nearly four million cases have been reported,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference. virtual.
“We hope to reach a total of 10 million cases in the next week.
“This is a sober reminder that even as we continue to research vaccines and therapies, we have an urgent responsibility to do our best with the tools we have now to suppress transmission and save lives.”
The new coronavirus has killed at least 477,500 people and infected nearly 9.3 million since its appearance in China last December, according to an official source count compiled by AFP.
– Increase in Latin America –
WHO Director of Emergencies Michael Ryan warned that the virus was still at its peak in the Americas and raised the possibility of new blocking measures at the national level, in the absence of ultra-surveillance.
“It is particularly intense in Central and South America,” he said.
“We have seen a consistent and worrying continuation of the trend, with many countries experiencing between 25 and 50 percent increase in cases over the past week.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic in many countries in the Americas has not reached its peak,” he said, and “it is likely to result in a sustained number of cases and continued deaths in the coming weeks.”
The Irish epidemiologist said that without isolating and quarantining the contacts, “the specter of new blockades cannot be excluded.”
Unfortunately, “the only way, in some circumstances, to avoid that now, is a very, very aggressive investment in our ability to detect cases,” he said.
After the United States, Brazil is the most affected country, with more than 52,600 deaths from more than 1.1 million cases.
President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for comparing the virus to a “little flu.”
“The numbers answer the answer,” said Ryan.
The height and length of the peak, and the downward trajectory, “has to do with government intervention to respond,” he said.
– ‘Difficult choices’ –
Patients with severe and critical COVID-19 struggle to get enough oxygen in their lungs, and they need higher concentrations and support to prevent organ failure and death.
Medical oxygen is produced using concentrators that extract and purify it from the air.
“Many countries are now experiencing difficulties obtaining oxygen concentrators. Eighty percent of the market is owned by a few companies, and demand currently exceeds supply,” said Tedros.
“The WHO estimates that at the current rate of about one million new cases per week, the world needs about 620,000 cubic meters of oxygen a day, which is about 88,000 large cylinders.”
Meanwhile, the WHO supported Saudi Arabia’s decision to reduce the annual pilgrimage to hajj to just 1,000 people, compared to 2.5 million last year.
The hajj is one of the largest mass gatherings in the world.
“This is another example of the difficult decisions that all countries must make to put health first,” said Tedros.