UNITED NATIONS - The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that countries may have to lockdown again as coronavirus cases continue to spike worldwide, with over 12 million now reported — more than double the amount reported six weeks ago.

 “We all want to avoid whole countries going back into total lockdown, that is not a desire that anybody has,” Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, told a virtual press conference in Geneva on Friday. “But there may be situation in which that is the only option.”

Dr. Ryan called it the “fundamental question” facing every community and every nation. “Once lockdowns were ended there was always the risk that the disease could bounce back,” he added.

The WHO has advised countries to open slowly, pay close attention to their data and proceed cautiously as they reopen.

“Accept the fact that in our current situation it is very unlikely that we can eradicate or eliminate this virus,” Dr. Ryan said.

 “When the virus is present there is a risk of spread,” he said.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said that several countries have also been brought back from severe outbreaks, including Italy, where more than 34,000 people died from the unchecked virus.

 “Across all walks of life we’re all being tested to the limits,” Tedros said. “The best shot we have is to work together in national unity and global solidarity.”

“From countries where there is exponential growth, to places that are loosening restrictions and now starting to see cases rise. We need leadership, community participation and collective solidarity. Only aggressive action combined with national unity and global solidarity can turn this pandemic around”, he said.

Tedros cited examples from across the globe which shows that even where the outbreak has been intense, it can still be brought under control.

“And some of these examples are Italy, Spain and South Korea, and even in Dharavi – a densely packed area in the megacity of Mumbai – a strong focus on community engagement and the basics of testing, tracing, isolating and treating all those that are sick is key to breaking the chains of transmission and suppressing the virus”, he said.