World Health Organization's Head Says Time to Act on Coronavirus Was More than a Month Ago, Countries 'Squandered' Opportunity

The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that the time to act on the novel coronavirus was "more than a month ago" but the opportunity to do so was squandered.

"If you remember, we have been saying for more than two months now this virus is public enemy number one. It's a dangerous virus," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the WHO's daily press briefing. "And we have been saying to the world that the window of opportunity is narrowing and the time to act was actually more than a month ago, two months ago."

He continued, "But we still believe that there is opportunity. I think we squandered the first window of opportunity. We are saying today...this is a second opportunity which we should not squander and do everything to suppress and control this virus."

Ghebreyesus said that responsibility is "for all of us" and noted that political leadership is especially critical. "It has to be able to communicate, to mobilize communities. Also to take ownership and do the right things to suppress and control this pandemic."

Since the first confirmed cases of the virus were identified in Wuhan, China, it has spread to 196 countries across the world. There are now 487,648 confirmed cases in those nations, which have led to 22,029 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center. There have also been 116,947 recoveries of those who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

A good sign has been that China, once considered the epicenter of the virus, has seen a decline in new cases in March, with only 1,718 for the month. Since the outbreak there began, China has had more than 80,000 cases in total, along with 3,291 deaths and 74,181 recoveries.

Ghebreyesus has said the new epicenter of the disease is Europe, with Italy and Spain together accounting for over 130,500 confirmed cases. Italy has been the hardest-hit country after China, with 74,386 cases, and has more than doubled China's death toll, with 7,503 fatalities. The country, among others in Europe, has implemented strict lockdown measures to keep the virus from rapidly spreading rapidly through its population.

The United States has 69,197 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,046 deaths from COVID-19, the disease it causes. The federal government has yet to implement a national lockdown, but a number of governors have done so in their state. New York is the epicenter of the virus in the U.S., with 30,811 cases and 280 deaths, according the state Department of Health's website,

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on March 11 in Geneva. FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty
World Health Organization's Head Says Time to Act on Coronavirus Was More than a Month Ago, Countries 'Squandered' Opportunity | U.S.