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WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 8 June 2020

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

Yesterday marked World Food Safety Day.

Food safety is everyone’s business, every day.

In times of crisis, it’s more important than ever.

We want to thank those who have continued to ensure that people can access safe food throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHO is proud to work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in ensuring all people have access to safe, nutritious food for healthy living.

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Almost 7 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, and almost 400,000 deaths.

Although the situation in Europe is improving, globally it is worsening.

More than 100,000 cases have been reported on 9 of the past 10 days. Yesterday, more than 136,000 cases were reported, the most in a single day so far.

Almost 75% of yesterday’s cases come from 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia.

Most countries in the African region are still experiencing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, with some reporting cases in new geographic areas, although most countries in the region have less than 1000 cases.

We also see increasing numbers of cases in parts of Eastern Europe and central Asia.

At the same time, we’re encouraged that several countries around the world are seeing positive signs.

In these countries, the biggest threat now is complacency. Results from studies to see how much of the population has been exposed to the virus show that most people globally are still susceptible to infection.

We continue to urge active surveillance to ensure the virus does not rebound, especially as mass gatherings of all kinds are starting to resume in some countries.

WHO fully supports equality and the global movement against racism. We reject discrimination of all kinds.

We encourage all those protesting around the world to do so safely.

As much as possible, keep at least 1 metre from others, clean your hands, cover your cough and wear a mask if you attend a protest.

We remind all people to stay home if you are sick and contact a health care provider.

We also encourage countries to strengthen the fundamental public health measures that remain the basis of the response: find, isolate, test and care for every case, and trace and quarantine every contact.

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Contact tracing remains an essential element of the response.

In some countries, there is already a strong network of health workers for polio who are now being deployed for COVID-19.

Last week we published guidance that describes how existing polio surveillance networks can be used in the COVID-19 response, and outlines the measures that should be put in place to maintain an effective level of surveillance for polio.

WHO has also published new guidelines on the use of digital tools for contact tracing.

Many digital tools have been developed to assist with contact tracing and case identification.

Some are designed for use by public health personnel, like WHO’s Go.Data application, which has been used successfully to trace contacts during the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC.

Others use GPS or Bluetooth technology to identify those who may have been exposed to an infected person.

And still others can be used by people to self-report signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

As part of a comprehensive approach, digital contact-tracing tools offer the opportunity to trace larger numbers of contacts in a shorter period of time, and to provide a real-time picture of the spread of the virus.

But they can also pose challenges to privacy, lead to incorrect medical advice based on self-reported symptoms, and can exclude those who do not have access to modern digital technologies.

More evidence is needed about the effectiveness of these tools for contact tracing. We encourage countries to gather this evidence as they roll out these tools, and to contribute that evidence to the global knowledge base.

We also emphasise that digital tools do not replace the human capacity needed to do contact tracing.

Starting tomorrow, WHO is convening an online consultation on contact tracing for COVID-19, to share technical and operational experience on contact tracing, including innovations in digital technology.

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As part of our commitment to coordinating the global response, WHO is also running the COVID-19 Partners Platform, an online tool that enables countries to match needs with resources.

This online tool enables countries to enter planned activities for which they need support, and donors to match their contributions to these activities.

So far, 105 national plans have been uploaded, and 56 donors have entered their contributions, totalling US$3.9 billion.

The platform also includes the COVID-19 Supply Portal, enabling countries to request critical supplies of diagnostics, protective equipment and other essential medical provisions.

So far, WHO has shipped more than 5 million items of personal protective equipment to 110 countries.

We are now in the process of shipping more than 129 million items of PPE to 126 countries.

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More than six months into this pandemic, this is not the time for any country to take its foot off the pedal.

This is the time for countries to continue to work hard, on the basis of science, solutions and solidarity.

I thank you.