The director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said "the world should have listened" to the UN agency's advice in order to avoid the coronavirus pandemic becoming so dire.
As global cases pass three million – one third of which are in the US – and more than 212,000 deaths from the disease, WHO leader Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic is "far from over" and countries should have heeded his warnings months ago.
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He said the UN agency sounded the alarm on January 30 by raising the alert to a global health emergency – the highest level – when just 82 deaths from the virus were recorded.
"The world should have listened to the WHO then carefully because global emergency, the highest level of emergency, was triggered on January 30 when we only had 82 cases and no deaths," he said.
"During that time there were only 82 cases outside of China … no cases in Latin America. No cases in Africa. Only 10 cases in Europe. No cases in the rest of the world. Nothing.
"Every country could have triggered all its public health measures possible."
The WHO has been criticised for its handling of the crisis, including not taking China to task enough for obfuscating early reports on the outbreak and failing to declare it a public health emergency earlier or issue travel warnings against going to China.
Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organisation's role was to offer science-based advice then it was up to countries whether to implement it.
He has consistently emphasised the importance of testing and said the countries that had managed to test, isolate and trace contacts of those with the virus were now "in a better position than others".
"This is fact," he added. "At the end of the day, each country takes its own responsibility."
The comments come as many countries from New Zealand to Australia and across Europe attempt to chart a path out of lockdown while keeping cases of the virus suppressed.
Thoughts are also turning to how the outbreak was handled and which countries have managed to keep citizens safe.
So far Australia, New Zealand and some Asian nations such as South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong have been praised for managing to suppress transmission with an aggressive strategy involving testing, isolating and contact tracing.
In contrast, the US and UK continue to see a high number of daily deaths with widespread sources of community transmission leading to questions over whether mistakes were made in handling the crisis.
Australia has had more than 6600 virus cases with just 89 deaths.