WHO: COVID-19 has "a long way to burn, if we allow it"

This morning the World Health Organization held a press conference in which they outlined the importance of vigilance in the fight against COVID-19. Speaking on the current state of the global pandemic, with regard to containment and advancements in vaccinations, Dr. Michael Joseph Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Program, suggested that the disease has a lot of potential to become a lot worse, IF we allow it.

We're doing OK, but...

"The numbers vary from week to week month to month from geography to geography, but I think what we have to keep in mind is a very small proportion of the world's population have actually gotten or been exposed to this virus and have developed an immunologic memory to the virus," said Dr. Ryan. "So, this virus is a long way to burn if we allow it."

"It may move in certain populations more efficiently depending on behavior and movement in certain populations, depending on whether people are spending more time inside or outside. It may return in in colder periods. It may it may do many things.

"But the one thing I think we have to remember is that most people, the vast majority of people remain susceptible to this infection. I think in terms of the overall Global picture, there are still a number of countries that are very much dealing with extensive uncontrolled community transmission with all of the consequences that go with that. With pressure on the health system, preventable deaths, and and all of the socio-economic damage that goes with having to take very very strong measures to try and control the disease."

Dr. Ryan continued, pointing to countries that've gotten the disease under control, but are now experiencing new cases, spikes in numbers. "Mainly related to the clusters of infection around particular events around particular context around crowds around gatherings and other things and they're struggling obviously to bring those clusters under control in order to prevent community transmission reigniting."

"I think that's probably probably the key issue here once you get community transmission under control, and you get back to clusters or sporadic cases, you have to try and keep it there," said Dr. Ryan. "Because if you allow if you take pressure off this virus, it will slip back towards community transmission and once community transmission takes off, it establishes itself and becomes intense, then you have all the consequences of the health system under pressure, death rates rising, hospitalizations rising.


"So the key objective for us all is to try and suppress infection to a point where we have control at a community level and then risk manage our way through this," said Dr. Ryan. "We have to make some difficult trade-offs, opening schools versus crowded gathering places. We need to make choices and some of those choices are not easy. They are hard and I think that's going to be the struggle over the coming months making good choices – governments making good choices, communities making good choices, and individuals making good choices."

"That requires good information, that requires good data, that requires knowledge, and being able to act. The [Director General] said that in his speech. He said we have the tools."

"We have a number of tools that we know that work. We need to continue to apply them. ... We need to accelerate the development of vaccines and we need to be able to pay for a massive expansion in our capacity to deliver vaccines to everyone that needs them but that's how I would characterize the global situation now.

The Plataeu

On the global number of cases, numbers rising, and the curve appearing to flatten, Dr. Ryan said, "Yes, we've seen a plateauing of numbers, but this is like the cascades of a waterfall."

"You can go down one level and you think you're in calm water and you go over the next level and you're in a waterfall again, so I do think we need to be very very careful," said Dr. Ryan. "Calm waters do not mean the storm is over. We may just be in the eye of the storm and we don't know it.

"So I think absolute vigilance now – and those those countries that have made progress: please retain that progress. You will lose that progress if if you relent, if you become complacent. Those countries that are in community transmission, the [Director General] keeps saying if there is always time to turn it around."

"Some of the countries now that have the best numbers are countries that had terrible outbreaks only a few months ago. Look at Italy. Look, what Italy has achieved in terms of its ability to control this disease. It is never too late to put this virus under pressure.

"So those countries that are making progress and have made progress. They give us hope. But those countries who have made progress need to remain vigilant."

Stick around as we continue to cover this global pandemic, updates, and today's World Health Organization press conference on a wide variety of topics here on SlashGear.