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Global coronavirus deaths ‘to hit 750,000 this week’ as cases near 20 million

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The global coronavirus death toll will pass the grim milestone of 750,000 this week, the World Health Organisation has said as the number of cases nears 20 million.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, made the devastating announcement as he urged countries to attempt to “suppress, suppress, suppress” the virus.

He told a virtual press briefing on Monday afternoon: “This week we will reach 20 million registered cases of Covid-19 and 750,000 deaths.

“Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering. Every life lost matters.”

The WHO chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, gave a statement on Monday (REUTERS)

The medical expert listed the UK as being among countries the WHO has seen take “strong and precise measures” to successfully tackle initially large outbreaks of the virus, and are now in the phase of tackling local outbreaks.

He cited the Prime Minister putting swathes of northern England under new restrictions as regional cases saw spikes in recent weeks.

The expert added: “Countries like France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Italy, and the UK had major outbreaks of the virus but when they took action, they were able to suppress it.

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“Many countries globally are now using all the tools at their disposal to tackle any new spikes.

“Over the last few days, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put areas of northern England under stay-at-home notifications, as clusters of cases were identified.

“In France, President Macron introduced compulsory masking in busy outdoor spaces of Paris in response to an increase in cases.

Boris Johnson was listed among leaders as taking strong measures to stamp out the virus (Lucy Young)

“Strong and precise measures like these, in combination with utilising every tool at our disposal, are key to preventing any resurgence in disease and allowing societies to be reopened safely.”

He said that as countries reopen large parts of society and return to a semblance of normal life, including schools, “they must remain vigilant for potential clusters of the virus”.

Dr Tedros added: “We all want to see schools safely reopened but we also need to ensure that students, staff and faculty are safe. The foundation for this is adequate control of transmission at the community.

“My message is crystal clear: suppress, suppress, suppress the virus.

“If we suppress the virus effectively, we can safely open up societies.”

Mr Johnson said today that he hoped schools would not have to close again after a planned reopening in September.

He said: “I very much hope that doesn’t happen for any pupils but clearly what we are doing … is to have local measures in place and local test and trace to introduce restrictions where that’s necessary. But the last thing we want to do is to close schools.”

As the grim milestone was reached, Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said that he believed a safe and effective vaccine would be found.

But he warned that “scaling up to production, allocating those vaccines in a way that does the most good around the world, stops this virus to the greatest extent possible, paying for all of that and preparing national systems to deliver this” would be the challenge.

He also warned that the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen the UK enter recession this week, may not be the last such pandemic seen in the coming years.

He warned that people are at “greater and greater” risk of viruses which can cross the animal-human species barrier, telling the briefing: “Let’s face this – we live in a planet in which we’re adding billions of people a decade, we are densely packed, we’re exploiting pristine environments, we are creating and driving the ecologic pressure that is creating the risks that are driving the risk of the animal-human species barrier.”

Agencies contributed to this report

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