The director-general of the World Health Organization has condemned a “lack of leadership” in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and made an emotional plea for global unity, as cases soar in multiple countries and the world struggles to contain the devastating virus more than six months after it was first identified.
“My friends, make no mistake: The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a passionate speech in Geneva on Thursday. “Rather, it’s the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels.”
“This is a tragedy that is forcing us to miss many of our friends, losing many lives. We cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world,” Tedros said, his voice trembling as he spoke.
The US is regularly reporting single-day record rises in cases and topped three million confirmed infections earlier this week, throwing its early attempts to reopen the economy into chaos.
The situation is almost as bleak in other regions. Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, has contracted Covid-19 after playing down its severity for months.
India announced its biggest single-day rise in cases on Thursday, and the spread of the virus is picking up pace in Mexico.
“How is it difficult for humans to unite to fight a common enemy that’s killing people indiscriminately?” Tedros asked during his plea, made during a WHO meeting. “Are we unable to distinguish or identify the common enemy? Can’t we understand that the divisions or the cracks between us actually are the advantage for the virus?”
He urged a coming-together of global powers, telling attendees: “Covid-19 is a test of global solidarity and global leadership.”
Tedros’ words come days after the Trump administration told Congress and the United Nations that the US is formally withdrawing from WHO.