The world should be able to rein in the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years, the World Health Organization said on Friday, as millions of Lebanese wearily entered a new lockdown following a spike in coronavirus infections.
Western Europe was also enduring the kind of infection levels not seen in many months, particularly in Germany, France, Spain and Italy — sparking fears of a full-fledged second wave.
In the Spanish capital Madrid, officials recommended people in the most affected areas stay at home to help curb the spread as the country registered more than 8,000 new cases in 24 hours.
But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sought to draw favourable comparisons with the notorious flu pandemic of 1918.
“We have a disadvantage of globalisation, closeness, connectedness, but an advantage of better technology, so we hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years,” he told reporters.
By “utilising the available tools to the maximum and hoping that we can have additional tools like vaccines, I think we can finish it in a shorter time than the 1918 flu”, he said.
With no usable vaccine yet available, the most prominent tool governments have at their disposal is to confine their populations.
Lebanon is the latest country to reintroduce severe restrictions, beginning two weeks of measures on Friday including nighttime curfews to tamp down a rise in infections, which comes as the country is still dealing with the shock from a huge explosion in the capital Beirut that killed dozens earlier this month.
“What now? On top of this disaster, a coronavirus catastrophe?” said 55-year-old Roxane Moukarzel in Beirut.
The capital’s streets largely emptied of cars at the start of the curfew, but some locals were unenthusiastic.
“There’s no point in this lockdown,” said Samer Harmoush, running along the Beirut seafront. “Some shops are complying completely, while others aren’t at all.”
Officials fear Lebanon’s fragile health system would struggle to cope with a further spike in COVID-19 cases, especially after some hospitals near the port were damaged in the explosion.