Coronavirus outbreak: World in ‘uncharted territory’


International desk, Mar 03: The world is in “uncharted territory” on the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

Its chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the virus was “unique” but could be contained with the right measures.

Deaths globally have passed 3,000. Most are in China but over the past day there were nine times more new infections outside China than inside.

Dr Tedros insisted: “We can push this virus back”. He also said stigma was more dangerous than the disease itself.

The WHO chief said the development of the Covid-19 disease globally was not a “one-way street” and could be combated if countries acted quickly and effectively – starting with containment measures.

“There is no choice but to act now,” he said.

One of the countries worst affected outside China – Italy – on Monday saw a jump in its death toll from 34 to 52.

Saudi Arabia, Australia, Portugal, Iceland, Jordan, Tunisia, Armenia, Latvia, Senegal and Andorra also reported their first confirmed cases on Monday.

Dr Tedros’s main advice was that each country had to look at their own situation as there was no one-way-fits-all means of tackling the outbreak.

“Each country must have its own approach but it must start with containment,” he said.

This was a “unique virus with unique features” and the WHO would have expected wide contagion by now, but containment measures had appeared to work, the doctor said.

Of the 62 countries reporting cases of infection, 38 of them had 10 or fewer, he added.

“Around eight countries have not reported new cases for two weeks and have been able to contain the outbreak,” he said. China had also shown containment was possible even in countries with a large number of cases.

The WHO would continue to monitor whether the outbreak should be called a global pandemic, Dr Tedros said.

South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan remain the greatest concern. A WHO staff member has tested positive in Iran, although the symptoms are mild, Dr Tedros said.

He also added: “Stigma, to be honest, is more dangerous than the virus itself. Let’s really underline that. Stigma is the most dangerous enemy.”

What is the situation globally?

There are now almost 90,000 cases worldwide in about 70 countries, although the vast majority – just under 90% – remain in China, and most of those are in Hubei province, where the virus originated late last year.

Of the nearly 8,800 cases outside China, 81% are in four countries – Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan.

Italy raised its death toll by 18 on Monday, with 1,835 confirmed cases, most of them in the Lombardy and Veneto areas of the north.

Iran reported another 12 deaths, taking the total there to 66. They included Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a high-ranking adviser to the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian media reported.

Health officials in the US state of Washington said on Monday that four more people had died, bringing the total there to six. They are the only deaths in the US so far.

President Donald Trump said he had told pharmaceutical companies to accelerate work on a vaccine, while New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, warned it was “inevitable” more people would test positive in the city.

In the UK, where there are 39 confirmed cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the virus was “likely to become more significant in the days and weeks ahead”, after holding a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee.

German minister rebuffs Merkel’s attempt to shake hands

Awkward moment in Germany as interior minister rebuffed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempt to shake hands with him on Monday as the number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to 150.

When Merkel reached out to greet Horst Seehofer at a meeting on migration in Berlin, he smiled and kept both his hands to himself.

They both laughed and Merkel then threw her hand up in the air before taking a seat.

Tunisia confirms first coronavirus case

In North Africa, Tunisia has confirmed its first case of coronavirus.

Abdelatif el-Maki, the health minister, said the patient is a Tunisian man, 40, who returned from Italy last week.

Tunisia is the second country in North Africa to announce a confirmed case after Algeria.

Jordan reports first case of coronavirus

Jordan announced its first case of coronavirus, the latest country in the Middle East to be hit by the outbreak.

The kingdom’s health minister said the infected person arrived back in Jordan from Italy two weeks ago.

“A medical specialised team is checking now the family of the infected person, and sterilising their house, and also checking whether they are infected or not, and putting those not infected in house quarantine for at least 14 days, and transferring the infected cases to the hospital,” Saad Jaber said.

Saudi Arabia announces first coronavirus case

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry announced its first coronavirus case.

The victim travelled from Iran to the Gulf kingdom through Bahrain, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.

A test confirmed the man was infected with the virus.

Samples were taken from those in contact with the person, and results were expected soon, the health ministry said.

Source: News Agencies