The ‘opportunity’ to stop the coronavirus

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a “window of opportunity” to stop the deadly new coronavirus from becoming a global crisis.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the best way to stop its spread was through the steps China took to fight the virus at its epicenter.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, China’s UN envoy instructed nations not to respond overly.

With more than 20,000 confirmed cases worldwide at least 427 people have died.

The WHO has declared a global health emergency over the outbreak but has said that the virus is not yet a “pandemic”-the spread of a new disease worldwide. Officials say that in China, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines, 425 people have died.

According to China’s National Health Commission (NHC), about 80 percent of those who died were over 60 and 75 percent of them had pre-existing health problems such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The new coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection, and symptoms usually begin with a fever accompanied by a dry cough. Most sick people are likely to recover completely-just like they would from flu.

Speaking at a technical briefing in Geneva, Dr. Tedros praised the Chinese authorities for their response at the epicenter of the outbreak-Wuhan City, Hubei Province, where millions of people are on lockdown and severe restrictions on transportation were enforced.

“Because of the high measures, there is a window of opportunity, the strong steps China is taking at the epicenter, at the source. So let’s take advantage of this opportunity to avoid further spreading and monitoring it,” he said, stressing that developed countries were not sharing data.

Dr. Tedros also reiterated his call for countries not to place restrictions on travel and trade, noting that 22 nations have officially reported these measures. He urged them to be “short, proportionate in duration,” and periodically reviewed.

Yet Chen Xu, China’s UN ambassador in Geneva, said certain limits go against the advice of the WHO.

Previously, Sylvie Briand, head of the Global Infectious Risk Preparedness Division at the WHO, said the outbreak was not a pandemic “actually.”

Although there have been cases reported by more than two dozen nations there have been no confirmations across Africa or Latin America. According to the WHO, 27 cases of human-to-human infections have occurred in 9 countries outside of China.

Dr. Briand also emphasized the importance of countering unfounded rumors, saying they could be an “obstacle to a good response and hamper effective countermeasure implementation.”

The British and French governments have been advising their Chinese citizens to leave the country if they can. The advice came after China’s top leadership acknowledged “deficiencies and shortcomings” in the country’s response to the outbreak.

Other developments:

Taiwan said it would deny entry to all foreign nationals who have been to mainland China in the last 14 days from Friday

Macau-China’s special administrative area and one of Asia’s largest gaming hubs-has announced that it will temporarily close all its casinos

Health officials are screening about 3,700 people onboard a cruise ship off Japan after a positive test for the virus from a passenger

Three more Asian countries-Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand-have confirmed infections among non-China residents

It could have infected more than 75,000 people in Wuhan, experts say. But estimates by Hong Kong University suggest that the total number of cases could be far higher than official figures.

Dr. David Heymann, who headed the WHO response to the 2002-03 epidemic of Sars or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, told the Associated Press news agency that the latest coronavirus seemed to continue to rise and that it was too early to predict its height.

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