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 Covid-19 cases rising Covid-19 cases rising  (ANSA)

WHO Chief self-isolating as COVID-19 spreads

The chief of the World Organization says he is self-isolating amid concerns he may have been infected with the coronavirus. Friday's announcement by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus came as officials said COVID-19 claimed more than a million lives worldwide, with Europe rushing to contain its spread.

By Stefan J. Bos 

Tedros said he was identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID19. In a statement on social networking site Twitter, he stressed that he was "well and without symptoms."

The 55-year-old leader did not identify the person who tested positive. However, Tedros said he would "self-quarantine over the coming days, in line with @WHO protocols, and work from home." 

The former Ethiopian minister of health and foreign affairs has been at the forefront of the United Nations health agency's efforts to battle the pandemic. 

His remarks came as official estimates suggested that COVID 19 claimed nearly 1.2 million lives and infected 46 million people worldwide since emerging in China late last year.

Europe is among the regions rushing to contain the virus. On Monday, Germany, Europe's largest economy, entered the first day of a month-long "lockdown light." It shut restaurants, bars, gyms, and entertainment venues but keeping schools, shops, and workplaces open.

INFECTION RATE RISING 

The coronavirus infection rate is still rising in Germany, though not as dramatically as in France and Belgium, which are now in tighter lockdowns. Italy is also planning tighter rules.

And over the weekend, Austria and Portugal became the latest countries to announce new restrictions.

Under Germany's new national measures, public meetings are restricted to 10 people maximum from two households. Private parties are banned.

Governments are also rushing in Central and Eastern Europe to contain the virus; in Slovakia, roughly half of the entire population took COVID-19 swabs over the weekend. 

With the two-day nationwide testing, the government hopes to reverse a fast rise in infections without a hard lockdown.

WORLD'S FIRST 

The scheme, a first in a country of comparable size, is being watched by other European Union nations, explained EU Council President Charles Michel. "The prime minister [of Slovakia] explained his country's strategy regarding the rapid tests is. Indeed in many countries, there is interest for the rapid test," Michel said. 

"Because we have the impression that with the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reactiontest those new rapid tests...can help in order to develop a global strategy," he added.   

Among those watching the testing in Slovakia are neighboring Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Austria. They all are looking for ways to slow the virus spread and avoid overwhelming their health systems.

Slovakia's Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said that more than 2.5 million Slovaks took the free of charge test on Saturday. The minister added that 25,850 people or 1 percent tested positive and must go into quarantine.

The EU member state has 5.5 million people and aims to test as many as possible, except for children under 10. More than 40,000 medics and support teams of soldiers, police, administrative workers, and volunteers staffed around 5,000 sites to administer the swab tests.

The government warned it would impose a lockdown on those who do not participate, including a ban on going to work. Prime Minister Igor Matovic said he apologized for putting pressure on people to participate but said the requirement was justified. "Freedom must go together with responsibility toward those who ... are the weakest among us, oncology patients, old people, and people with other diseases."

02 November 2020, 16:46