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The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday praised President Trump for his leadership in handling the novel coronavirus outbreak and said the president is “taking responsibility” for leading the United States’ response to the global pandemic.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the United Nations health agency has repeatedly called for the heads of state to lead a “whole of government” response to COVID-19 and said Trump was leading by example.
“That’s exactly what he’s doing, which we appreciate because fighting this pandemic needs political commitment,” Tedros said during an afternoon press briefing in Geneva.
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Tedros said he and Trump had recently spoken and that the president is “doing all he can.”
“I believe that kind of political commitment and political leadership can bring change or can stop this pandemic,” Tedros said.
During the virtual press conference, Tedros called COVID-19 “Public Enemy No. 1,” and warned that if some countries don’t get serious about putting safety measures in place, the world could see thousands of additional casualties.
He added that wide-scale efforts to slow the coronavirus should have started weeks ago.
“It’s a dangerous virus,” Tedros said. “We had been saying to the world the window of opportunity is narrowing and the time to act was actually more than a month ago, two months ago.”
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Tedros instructed countries that have locked down their populations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to use the time to “find and attack the virus.”
“Asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement is buying time, and reducing pressure on health systems. On their own, these measures won’t extinguish epidemics,” he said.
Nations need to expand, train and deploy their health care and public health workers, Tedros said, and encouraged them to ramp up testing and track down every suspected case of the coronavirus within their borders.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global death toll has surpassed the 20,000 mark.
Tedros said he believes the death toll will rise even higher.
“The question is how large a price we will pay,” he said.
The WHO has been under fire for waiting for weeks before declaring the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. It then raised the ire of many countries including the United States by praising China for its handling of the coronavirus.
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China is largely considered the epicenter of the crisis.
There have been allegations that China hid crucial data and downplayed the disease which led to it spreading around the world. China has denied these claims and has accused the United States of manufacturing COVID-19 and unleashing it on the world.