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UNITED NATIONS, Oct 24 (APP): With the autumn and winter surge of coronavirus cases now underway, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called on countries around the world to take “immediate action” to limit the spread of the deadly disease.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva on Friday that the world was at a crucial phase in the pandemic, especially the Northern Hemisphere, while some countries were facing the prospect of their health services being overwhelmed.

“The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track,” he said.

“We urge leaders to take immediate action, to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again. As I said it in February and I’m repeating it today: This is not a drill.”

Tedros said it was worrying that several countries were now seeing an “exponential increase” in infections.

“Too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close or above capacity and we’re still only in October.”

He added that countries could take certain steps to avoid mandatory lockdowns such as improving testing, tracing of contacts of those infected and isolation of those at risk of spreading the virus.

The WHO Director-General said countries needed to conduct honest analysis and consider the good, the bad and the ugly.

For those who have brought transmission under control, he said now was the time to “double down, to keep transmission at a low level, be vigilant, ready to identify cases and clusters, and take quick action.

He said there were incredible stories of hope and resilience, of people and businesses responding creatively to the outbreak, and we need to share these widely.

Contact tracing is essential he added, and clear instructions on how to go about it, so more mandatory stay at home orders can be avoided.

The WHO chief also flagged the start on Saturday, of World Polio Day week, with partners around the world organizing events and raising awareness of the need to eradicate polio, once and for all.

Over the summer, the wild polio virus was banished from Africa, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of thousands of health workers reaching millions of children with vaccines, marking one of the greatest public health achievements of all time.

But the risk of resurgence always remains, which cases continue, and following an initial suspension of polio and other routine immunizations due to the pandemic, vaccinations drives have now resumed, Tedros said.