- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2020

The World Health Organization said Monday it needs the Group of 20 nations to increase the production of hospital gear and drop export bans to ensure that countries with the greatest need are equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus may have unintended consequences by exacerbating shortages of essential protective gear, and the materials needed to make them,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus. “Addressing the global shortage of these life-saving tools means addressing every part of the supply chain, from raw materials to finished product.”

Mr. Ghebreyesus said he will be speaking to G-20 leaders soon.

“We need unity in the G-20 countries who have more than 80% of the global GDP,” he said.

The search for personal protective equipment, or PPE, has dominated the debate in the U.S., where a set of governors has called on President Trump to use the Defense Production Act to compel production from the private sector and coordinate shipments.

Governors say the lack of federal direction is forcing them to bid against other states and pay exorbitant prices for gear. Mr. Trump says he doesn’t want to “nationalize” industries and that many companies are stepping up to fill the need.

Researchers, meanwhile, are scrambling to figure out if certain drugs might be effective against the coronavirus and its disease, COVID-19.

Mr. Ghebreyesus said nations should join a WHO initiative, the SOLIDARITY Trial, that’s designed to share information from clinical trials across the globe.

Countries are trying an antiviral known as remdesivir, a malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine and a pair of HIV drugs on COVID-19 patients to see if any of them are safe and effective.

Also Monday, WHO said the future of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo is “under close observation.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for the first time, suggested the games might have to be postponed instead of starting as planned in late July.

Mr. Trump, who is close to Mr. Abe, says the Japanese leader will make the right call.

“We will be guided by the wishes of Prime Minister Abe of Japan, a great friend of the United States and a man who has done a magnificent job on the Olympic Venue, as to attending the Olympic Games in Japan,” President Trump tweeted. “He will make the proper decision!”

The coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December. It’s infected over 350,000 people on six continents and killed over 15,000 people, including nearly 500 in the U.S.

“The pandemic is accelerating,” Mr. Tedros said. “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases. You can see how the virus is accelerating.”

“But we’re not prisoners to statistics,” he said. “We can change the trajectory of this pandemic.”

He compared it to a soccer game in which attacking the goal is important — not just defending.

Mr. Tedros riffed on the metaphor as part of WHO’s partnership soccer governing body, FIFA, which launched a campaign to “kick COVID-19 out.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said global stars will press the public to take the pathogen seriously and follow public health advice, as they join fans in staying at home.

“In my case, I’m not able to be together with my colleges, with my teammates to do what I love, what is my passion,” Liverpool FC goalkeeper Alisson Becker, a Brazilian, told the WHO press briefing via video feed. “I was made for playing football.”

“It’s important in this moment,” he said, “that we have the right information and follow the right information.”

European leagues have suspended club play and the continent’s governing body, UEFA, delayed its Euro 2020 tournament among national teams until summer 2021.

“Many football matches have stopped but our collaboration has become more important during this difficult time,” Mr. Tedros said.

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