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The WHO sees “green shoots of hope” as global cases approaching 20 million

Children sit in the classroom on the first day of the new school year in GuthsMuths primary school during the coronavirus pandemic on August 10, 2020 in Berlin.

Maja Hitij | Getty Images

The World Health Organization said Monday there were glimmers of hope in the fight against the coronavirus, even as worldwide cases of the virus near 20 million and the death toll near 750,000.

“I know that many of you are grieving and that this is a difficult moment for the world,”

; said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press conference from the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “But I want to make it clear that there are green glimmers of hope and no matter where a country, region, city or city is, it is never too late to reverse the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Tedros said some countries in Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Rwanda, and islands in the Caribbean and Pacific were able to suppress the virus early on.

France, Germany, South Korea, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom have had large coronavirus outbreaks and they have been able to suppress those too, he said. He attributed the decline in new cases in these countries to “strong and precise” actions by executives such as home assignments and mask assignments.

WHO recommends that people wear masks to slow the spread of the virus, wash hands regularly, keep their distance from others, and avoid crowded places.

“In France, in response to an increase in cases, President Emmanuel Macron introduced mandatory masking in busy outskirts of Paris,” Tedros said.

He said whether countries or regions have successfully eliminated Covid-19, suppressed transmission to low levels, or are still in the midst of a major outbreak, now is the time to “do everything”. “Invest in public health fundamentals and we can save lives and livelihoods,” he said.

The United States has the worst outbreak in the world, with more than 5 million cases and at least 162,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. President Donald Trump has attributed the cases to an increase in testing. However, disease experts deny this claim, saying that the rate of cases that test positive in the US, hospitalizations and deaths remain high in some states.

At least 162,000 people have already died from the coronavirus and White House projections, which could rise to nearly 300,000 Americans by December 1. The Institute for Health Metrics and Assessment also expects an increase in the number of hospital beds and ventilators required.

Public health experts and infectious disease specialists say having a strong, coordinated message from the federal government and U.S. states on the virus is more important than ever as health officials fear the virus is currently widespread in parts of the Midwest.

In recent weeks, it is still unclear whether and how schools in the US will reopen in the fall, as the role children play in spreading the disease is still unclear. On Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all school districts across the state had been allowed to reopen for the fall semester, including New York City, the largest school district in the country.

Talking Monday about reopening schools, Tedros said countries should take a “risk-based approach” while remaining “vigilant” of potential clusters.

“We all want schools to reopen safely, but we also need to make sure students, staff and teachers are safe,” he said. “The basis for this is adequate control of Covid-19 transmission.”

He said his message was clear: “suppress, suppress, suppress the virus.”

“If we suppress Covid-19 effectively, we can safely open societies,” he said.

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