The World Health Organization has urged governments to engage with people demonstrating against Covid-19 restrictions and listen to their concerns, but stressed protesters needed to understand the virus was dangerous.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voiced understanding for the growing frustration felt as people continue to have to deal with restrictions eight months into the pandemic.
“We understand that people are tired and yearn to get on with their lives. We understand that countries want to get their societies and economies going again,” he said.
The UN health agency, he stressed, “fully supports efforts to re-open economies and societies… but we want to see it done safely.” But he also insisted that “no country can just pretend the pandemic is over”.
“If countries are serious about opening up, they must be serious about suppressing transmission and saving lives,” he said, insisting that “opening up without having control is a recipe for disaster”.
Tedros took issue with the opinions voiced by some that high death rates were not really a concern if it is mainly the elderly who are dying.
“Accepting someone to die because of age is moral bankruptcy at its highest, and we shouldn’t allow our society to behave this way,” he said.
“Every life whether it is young or old is precious. And we have to do everything to save it.”
Asked about recent demonstrations in a number of countries against coronavirus restrictions, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was important to “listen to what people are asking, what people are saying”.
“We should engage in an honest dialogue,” he told reporters, stressing though that demonstrators have a responsibility to ensure protests are safe.
“The virus is real. It is dangerous. It moves fast and it kills,” he said, insisting “we have to do everything to protect ourselves and to protect others”.
Speaking about the broader protests, the WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan pointed out that “epidemics and emergencies create strong emotions, and acceptance of measures is always very, very tough.
“It is really important that governments don’t overreact to people protesting against measures,” he told the virtual briefing.
“The real important thing to do is to enter into a dialogue with groups.”
Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s continuing live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, with me, Alison Rourke.
The World Health Organization’s boss, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says “no country can just pretend the pandemic is over”, warning that “opening up without having control is a recipe for disaster”.
But Tedros urged states to understand the the growing frustration people felt over the pandemic: “We understand that people are tired and yearn to get on with their lives. We understand that countries want to get their societies and economies going again,” he said.
His emergencies director, Michael Ryan, called on governments not to “overreact to people protesting against measures,” saying that “epidemics and emergencies create strong emotions, and acceptance of measures is always very, very tough”.
In other developments:
- France’s new Covid-19 infections shot up by 50% in August. France saw its highest monthly tally since the beginning of the outbreak earlier this year, while hospitalisations for the disease seem to be creeping up again.
- Spain infections rise more than 23,000 since Friday. Health ministry data showed 2,489 new cases were diagnosed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total since the onset of the pandemic to 462,858.
- The United States passed 6m coronavirus infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The milestone comes amid rising infection in some Midwestern states, including Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
- Hong Kong will start conducting mass coronavirus tests on Tuesday. The voluntary tests are part of an attempt to stamp out a third wave of infections that began in late June and saw the densely populated city reimpose economically painful social distancing measures.
- India’s former president Pranab Mukherjee died after testing positive. He was 84. Mukherjee had emergency surgery for a blood clot in his brain on 10 August at New Delhi’s army hospital research and referral after suffering a fall. The hospital said he had tested positive for coronavirus after the surgery and his condition was critical. The news came as the country’s economy shrank nearly 24% in the last quarter.
- The United Arab Emirates recorded more than 500 daily Covid-19 infections, the highest number over a 24-hour period in nearly two months. The Gulf Arab state has reported 541 infections and two deaths, the highest since 683 cases were recorded on 5 July.