World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO heardquaters in Geneva on March 11, 2020. - WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on March 11, 2020, that the new coronavirus outbreak can now be characterised as a pandemic. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

The head of the World Health Organization has warned that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus outbreak, raising new alarm bells about the pandemic just as many countries are beginning to ease restrictive measures.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify exactly why he believes that the outbreak could get worse. Some people, though, have pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed.

So far, it has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Tedros alluded to the so-called Spanish flu in 1918 as a reference for the coronavirus outbreak.

“It has a very dangerous combination and this is happening … like the 1918 flu that killed up to 100 million people,” he told reporters in Geneva.

“But now we have technology, we can prevent that disaster, we can prevent that kind of crisis.”

WHO officials warned against countries lifting restrictions and lockdowns too quickly, saying that early data shows that relatively few people have been infected with the virus, meaning that many would be susceptible to a resurgence.

“Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us,” Tedros said. “Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.”

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