Coronavirus: World Health Organization warns worst yet to come if 'global solidarity' isn't cemented

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that without "national unity" and "global solidarity" humanity has yet to see the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are nearly 2.5 million cases of the respiratory disease worldwide, with the virus having spread to nearly every country around the world, crippling global economies and ravaging international tourism. More than 168,000 people have died.

But according to the Director-General of the WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, while countries are beginning to see rates of infection flatten and relatively fewer deaths than witnessed weeks ago, without "national unity" and "global solidarity", we may be yet to see the most brutal impacts of the virus.

"Without the two… Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us," Dr Ghebreyesus said at his Tuesday briefing.

"Let's prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand."

Dr Ghebreyesus has previously warned about the damage the virus could have in Africa, where SARS-CoV-2 is just starting to spread.

The call for global solidarity comes as countries, like the United States and the United Kingdom, continue to claim China didn't do enough to stop the virus' spread, opening up rifts between the nations. 

The Director-General, in an emotional press conference, also rejected allegations that his organisation hadn't been transparent about the virus. The likes of US President Donald Trump have accused the WHO of mismanaging the crisis, including by being too slow to declare a pandemic or recommend travel restrictions. 

The WHO has come under fire for placing too much trust in China and not scrutinising Chinese officials' conclusions. One example regularly pointed to is the WHO declaring in mid-January that Chinese authorities had found no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus. Documents unearthed by the Associated Press last week showed health officials in China believed human-to-human transmission was possible

Dr Ghebreyesus said everything the WHO did was to save lives and that the organisation had "been warning from day one".

"We are open and we give information to anybody… there is no secret in the WHO. Keeping things confidential or secret is dangerous. It is a health issue," he said.

He spoke about his personal experiences with tragedy and that he recognises the human beings behind the data he is presented with daily. 

"They are not numbers. They are not averages. They are people. They are individuals. That is why we don't have secrets. As soon as we have the information we pass it, because we want to save lives. Even if it is one life. Even one life matters.

"That is why we have been urging countries, please this virus is dangerous. This virus is public enemy number one.

"We don't hide information because I know what poverty means. I know what war means."

The Director-General has previously laid out six criteria for countries to consider when lifting lockdown restrictions. That includes ensuring that transmission is controlled, that health systems are capable of dealing with another outbreak, and that imported cases can be managed. 

In his briefing, Dr Ghebreyesus reemphasised that easing restrictions "is not the end of the epidemic in any country".

"Ending the epidemic will require a sustained effort on the part of individuals, communities and governments to continue suppressing and controlling this deadly virus," he said

"So-called lockdowns can help to take the heat out of a country’s epidemic, but they cannot end it alone. Countries must now ensure they can detect, test, isolate and care for every case, and trace every contact."