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The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Monday used his own situation as an example of how people must observe quarantine rules if they learn they are a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Tedros has been identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

"I am well and without symptoms but will self-quarantine in the coming days in line with WHO protocols," he told a virtual press conference from home.

He emphasized that it was critically important at this time that people comply with health guidance.

"This is how we will break chains of transmission, suppress the virus, and protect the health system," he said.

Since Tedros has shown no symptoms, current WHO protocols do not require him to take a test, according to Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme.

"As you can see, he is very well, working away and continuing to do his job in supporting the world," said Ryan, revealing that Tedros has just become a grandfather.

The past few days saw cases in many European and North American countries spike sharply. Several European countries have started a new round of lockdowns.

Tedros noted that in some countries cases could increase exponentially and hospitals could reach capacity, posing a risk to patients and health workers.

Countries must invest in the basics again, he said, so that measures can be lifted safely and governments can avoid having to take such action again.

He said: "This is another critical moment for action. Another critical moment for leaders to step up. And another critical moment for people to come together for a common purpose. Seize the opportunity, it's not too late."

Asked about the protests against new government lockdown measures in some European cities, Ryan said he understood the frustrations and supports the right to demonstrate.

He noted that governments in Europe face a "very, very difficult situation".

"You can argue how you got into the situation. You can't argue the situation is serious. We need to push this virus down. We need to take the heat out of this epidemic in Europe right now," he said.

Ryan pointed out that governments have little choice now in how to control the outbreak.

"Their options are limited, he said. "Their options may get easier if they get some success. Right now, governments face very limited options."

He suggested people should challenge governments, but that they should support those measures that are aimed at trying to protect populations and trying to help people.

In Spain, demonstrations against new restrictions turned into violent clashes between police and protesters in several cities for a second night on Saturday, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Around 60 people were arrested and about 30 officers injured on Saturday night, with clashes erupting in Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga and other cities.