24 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: WHO warns pandemic is accelerating

11:26 am on 24 March 2020

The pandemic of disease caused by the coronavirus is accelerating, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says, with more than 300,000 cases now recorded and infections reported from nearly every country worldwide.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus giving an online media conference.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said aggressive and targeted tactics were needed to change the trajectory of the pandemic. Photo: AFP

While it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases of Covid-19, it took only 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.

"But we are not prisoners to statistics. We're not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic," Tedros told an online briefing for more than 300 journalists.

He called for global political commitment to change the trajectory of the pandemic, urging countries to take both defensive and attacking measures.

"Asking people to stay at home and other social distancing measures are an important way of slowing down the spread of the virus and buying time, but they are defensive measures," he said.

"To win we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics - testing every suspect case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case and tracing and quarantining every close contact."

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

New Zealand is preparing to go into an unprecedented lockdown at 11.59pm Wednesday for at least four weeks to stem the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Essential service workers are still allowed to go to work, but organisations have been urged to find ways to minimise inter-personal contact.

Professor Shaun Hendy from Auckland University, a physicist who specialises in modelling complex systems and networks, said it would be several weeks before the effect would be known.

'Scary couple of weeks'

The Ministry of Health on Monday announced 36 new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, bringing the total to 102.

Most of the increase in cases in New Zealand is being driven by people returning from overseas.

Two cases - in the Wairarapa and Auckland - which cannot be traced back to overseas travel.

Hendy said this meant there would potentially be more outbreaks in the community.

"We've got a scary couple of weeks until the effect of what we're doing now kicks in," Hendy told Morning Report.

"Because of the community transmission there'll be a lag before we see the benefits of going into lockdown or reducing our person-to-person contact.

"We think maybe in two to three weeks we'll start to see that effect."

- Reuters / RNZ

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