The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday that the world is going through a dangerous new phase of the coronavirus pandemic as people tiring of lockdowns despite the rapid spread of the disease.
The warning came when it was found that the virus was present in Italy in December, months before its first confirmed cases, and at the same time that the disease was first reported in China.
The deadly disease has killed more than 454,000 people and injured 8.4 million people worldwide and is surging in the Americas and parts of Asia, even when Europe begins to ease restrictions.
Lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the disease has caused severe economic damage, but the World Health Organization has said that the pandemic remains a major threat.
"The world is in a new and dangerous stage. It is understood that many people are understandably fed up with being at home... but the virus is still spreading quickly," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual press briefing.
According to the ISS Institute, Italian researchers have discovered the genetic traces of SARS-CoV-2, as is officially known, in samples collected in Milan and Turin at the end of last year, and Bologna in January.
The first confirmed cases in Italy were not until February.
The ISS said the results "help to understand the start of circulation of the virus in Italy."
Italy was the first European country affected by the virus and the first country in the world to impose a nationwide lockdown in early March.
On the other hand, countries like Italy and Spain were the first and most affected by the pandemic, as they were crippled by heavy financing.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it was " uncertain" whether an agreement would be reached when the leaders met in person in mid-July, adding that it might not be finalized until after the summer.
Chinese scientists also said the virus probably emerged from a market in the central city of Wuhan in December, but Beijing officials recently suggested it might have originated elsewhere.
In April, the President of the World Health Organization warned that most countries are still in the early stages of tackling the pandemic.
The Director-General added that some countries that believed the new coronavirus was under control are re-emerging in cases, while there are worrying upward trends in Africa and the Americas.
The Chinese authorities said that the genome data, which is shared with the World Health Organization, indicate that the new outbreak in Beijing "came from Europe", but that it differs from what is currently spreading there.
The United States widely criticized the body for its handling of the pandemic, but Tedros brushed off calls for him to resign.
Ghebreyesus warned countries that they had begun to ease the embargo laws and said that "easing restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country."
The United States had previously announced its decision to suspend its funds to the World Health Organization, while the United Nations Specialized International Public Health Agency is coordinating a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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