Geneva, May 26 : Countries could see a "second peak" of coronavirus cases during the first wave of the pandemic if lockdown restrictions were lifted too soon, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
Mike Ryan, the WHO's head of emergencies, told a briefing on Monday that the world was "right in the middle of the first wave", the BBC reported.
He said because the disease was "still on the way up", countries need to be aware that "the disease can jump up at any time".
"We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now that it's going to keep going down," Ryan said.
There would be a number of months to prepare for a second peak, he added.
The stark warning comes as countries around the world start to gradually ease lockdown restrictions, allowing shops to reopen and larger groups of people to gather.
Experts have said that without a vaccine to give people immunity, infections could increase again when social-distancing measures are relaxed.
Ryan said countries where cases are declining should be using this time to develop effective trace-and-test regimes to "ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don't have an immediate second peak".
Also on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said that a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) on COVID-19 patients has come to "a temporary pause", while the safety data of the the anti-malaria drug was being reviewed.
According to the WHO chief, The Lancet medical journal on May 22 had published an observational study on HCQ and chloroquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalized, reports Xinhua news agency.
The authors of the study reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.
"The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday (May 23) and has agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally," Tedros said in a virtual press conference.
The developments come as the total number of global COVID-19 cases has increased to 5,508,904, with 346,508 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
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-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text