WHO in thinly veiled dig at UK as coronavirus measures not ‘urgent enough’

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is stressing the importance of testing for coronavirus in what seems to be a thinly-veiled dig at the UK.

At a press conference on Monday, the organisation said there has been a rapid escalation in the number of cases diagnosed across the world in recent weeks.

Director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the only way to get the pandemic under control is for testing to become widely available for anyone who fears they may have the virus.

He says the response from many governments to the crisis has been insufficient and must be stepped up immediately to prevent many more people getting sick and potentially dying.

"You cannot fight a fire while blindfolded," he said.

The British government has been criticised by health professionals for not making coronavirus tests available for much of the public, with strict symptom requirements in order for people to be eligible for testing.

That's despite experts believing many people could have the virus but be asymptomatic, and potentially spreading it to other people at greater risk.

On March 11, NHS officials announced that Covid-19 testing would be greatly expanded with up to 10,000 tests being carried out each day. But the following day, chief medical officer for England Chris Witty told media: "We will pivot all of the testing capacity to identifying people in hospitals who have symptoms."

Healthcare experts believe that means the government is committed to only testing those who already have symptoms, and that many cases will go unidentified.

The USA has also been criticised for its lack of available testing, with many people who believe they could be infected unable to get tested.

Dr Ghebreyesus says WHO is working with companies to increase the availability of tests for those in need.

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  • World Health Organisation
  • Coronavirus

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