Global health body urges international community to focus on prevention as death toll in China crosses 1,000 with over 40,000 infected
The World Health Organization on Monday urged the international community to focus on containment and preventative measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, as China reported that the disease’s death toll had reached 1,016 with over 42,000 confirmed infected patients.
“Our objective remains containment,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva. “We call on all countries to use [this] window of opportunity we have to prevent a bigger fire,” he said, adding that reports of the virus spreading outside China were, for now, “only a spark.”
“The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire, but for now it’s only a spark,” he added.
Since the coronavirus outbreak last month, WHO has sent shipments of medical supplies to countries around the world in an attempt to better arm officials against the disease. The overall pattern of infections during this time has remained largely unchanged, Tedros said.
Ninety-nine percent of all cases have been reported from China, with most of the infected displaying mild symptoms and two percent proving fatal, said Tedros. Dr. Sylvie Briand, WHO’s director of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases, told the press that 80 percent of the cases displayed mild symptoms; 15 percent severe; while three to five percent required intensive care.
“This is of course too many,” the WHO chief said of the fatalities, noting that many questions still needed answering, such as where the outbreak was still growing and where conditions were improving—or getting worse. He said that as part of WHO’s measures to coordinate an international response to the epidemic, an advance team of international epidemiology experts had been sent to Beijing to assist the authorities with the outbreak.
To questions on whether the incubation period for the coronavirus was 24 days, and not the 14 days currently believed to be sufficient for quarantine, a WHO official said the agency was satisfied with the 14-day period.
Also on Monday, Special Assistant to the P.M. on National Health Services Dr. Zafar Mirza assured Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing that Islamabad supported Beijing’s measures to combat the novel coronavirus. He said Pakistani students in China were “our children” and all steps were being taken to ensure they were protected.
Confirming that no case of the disease had been reported in Pakistan so far, Mirza expressed confidence that the Chinese government would soon win the fight against the outbreak.
Yao Jing, meanwhile, said all possible information regarding the virus would be provided to the Pakistani government to aid in prevention.