WHO warns overseas coronavirus spread may be ‘tip of the iceberg’


PTI, Feb 10, 2020, 12:17 PM IST

Geneva: The head of the World Health Organization said on Monday there have been “concerning instances” of coronavirus among people with no travel history to China, warning that it could be the “tip of the iceberg”, as he urged all countries to prepare for the possible arrival of the novel virus that has killed over 900 people.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lauded the doctors, nurses and health workers for doing “their utmost” at personal risk to contain the epidemic, terming them “true heroes” of the outbreak that first surfaced in December in Wuhan city in China’s central Hubei province where millions of people are under lockdown in a bid to stop it from spreading.

“There’ve been some concerning instances of onward 2019nCoV spread from people with no travel history to China. The detection of a small number of cases may indicate more widespread transmission in other countries; in short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” tweeted Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.

“In an evolving public health emergency, all countries must step up efforts to prepare for #2019nCoV’s possible arrival and do their utmost to contain it should it arrive. This means lab capacity for rapid diagnosis, contact tracing and other tools in the public health arsenal,” he said.

The death toll in China from the novel coronavirus epidemic jumped to 908 and the number of confirmed cases has risen over 40,000, Chinese health officials said on Monday.

Ghebreyesus said the spread of coronavirus outside China appeared to be slowing, but could accelerate, warning that any breach in solidarity is a victory for the virus.

“Containment remains our objective, but all countries must use the window of opportunity created by the containment strategy to prepare for the virus’s possible arrival,” he said.

“In the spirit of financial solidarity, donors have been stepping up, but we have not reached our goal of US$675 million for @WHO and vulnerable countries,” Ghebreyesus said.

“Containment remains our objective, but all countries must use the window of opportunity created by the containment strategy to prepare for the virus’s possible arrival,” he said.

A total of 908 people have died of coronavirus and 40,171 confirmed cases of infection were reported in 31 provincial-level regions so far, China’s National Health Commission said on Monday.

By the end of Sunday, 36 confirmed cases, including one death, had been reported in Hong Kong, 10 confirmed cases in Macao and 18 in Taiwan. Overseas, over 300 cases of coronavirus have been reported, including three from Kerala.

Outside China, there have been more than 350 infections reported in almost 30 places with two deaths, one in the Philippines and the other in Hong Kong.

Several countries have banned arrivals from China while major airlines have suspended flights to the country.

China and countries around the world are scrambling to contain the spread of coronavirus which is wreaking havoc in China and abroad. Apart from Germany, Britain and Italy, other European nations with cases of the virus include France, Russia, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Spain.

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