Pandemic hits 'new and dangerous phase' as 150,000 cases recorded in one day

As governments around the world begin easing their lockdown measures, experts have warned of coronavirus cases ‘accelerating’.

The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the ‘world is in a new and dangerous phase’ during a virtual briefing in Geneva yesterday. He added that Covid-19 is ‘still spreading fast, it is still deadly and most people are still susceptible’.

Tedros Adhanom made the warning after 150,000 new cases were recorded worldwide on Thursday, the highest single day rise since the outbreak began. Nearly half of those diagnoses were from the Americas, but many new cases are also coming from South Asia and the Middle East.

The WHO chief encouraged people to exercise ‘extreme vigilance’ and for countries to maintain social distancing rules. The UN health agency called track and trace technology as ‘an essential element’ in preventing the spread of the disease as countries try to adjust to a post Covid-19 world.

Coronavirus has infected more than 8.7 million people worldwide and killed more than 460,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The actual number is thought to be much higher because many cases are asymptomatic or go untested.

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The WHO’s regional director for Europe Dr Hans Kluge warned a second wave in the autumn was possible. At a briefing on Thursday, he said: ‘We have the seasonal influenza, there is the possibility of a seasonal effect on the virus – but we’re not sure yet – that then we will see a second wave.

‘So the lesson is that we have to implement what we know works – at the core of the strategy is to find as early as possible, isolate, test suspected people from Covid, and if needs be treat them without any stigma or discrimination.

‘At the same time (governments need) to track and quarantine contacts – contact tracing is an essential element of this strategy. But there is no single solution.’

Dr Kluge said members of the public sticking to lockdown rules was ‘crucial’ to help curb the spread of infections, particularly with the temptation to go out in groups during the summer. He added: ‘We are not out of the woods. Lockdowns and social distancing have gained us time.

‘Where we have opportunity we must grasp it to strengthen our preparedness and readiness – of our emergency services and our routine health system delivery.

‘That means hoping for the best but preparing for the worst: a likely resurgence of COVID-19, across countries, through regions, in towns and communities. As the popular saying goes, we count our chicks in the autumn, but this depends on how we act now.’

That same day the British Government made U-turn by ditching its NHS track and trace app despite working for nearly three months on it.

Instead they are opting for technology which Apple and Google were developing independently, insisting that they were ‘backing both horses’.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock initially said a working contact tracing app would be ready by mid-May, but he refused to give a release date when asked this week.

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