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Coronavirus Not Yet a Pandemic –WHO

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The are now more than 77,362 cases and more than 2,600 deaths, as a result of coronavirus. Outside China, there are now 2,074 cases of COVID-19 in 28 countries, with 23 deaths. The Countries where the cases have been confirmed so far include the Republic of Korea, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Philippines, Thailand, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Canada, United States of America and Italy, among others.
25 Feb 2020 14:01
The movement of people in Shenzhen in China, is being strictly controlled during t the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by WHO

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While a sudden increase in new cases of COVID-19 is of concern, the spread of coronavirus is not yet a pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.  

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained that the decision to use the word ‘pandemic’ is based on an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus,  the severity of the disease it causes, and the impact on society.  

“For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death,” he said, adding that what is occurring is coronavirus epidemics in different parts of the world, which are affecting countries differently.  

The coronavirus emerged late last year in China, where cases are now declining. A joint WHO-China mission has concluded its work, after travelling to several provinces, including Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak and found that the epidemic peaked and plateaued between 23 January and 2 February, and has been declining steadily ever since.  

As of Monday morning, there were more than 77,362 cases and more than 2,600 deaths. Outside China, there are now 2,074 cases of COVID-19 in 28 countries, with 23 deaths. The Countries where the cases have been confirmed so far include the Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Canada, United States of America, Italy, Germany, France, The United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Spain, Belgium, Finland, Israel, Sweden, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt and Lebanon. 

The WHO chief described the sudden increase of cases in Italy, Iran and South Korea as “deeply concerning”. Korea, now has the highest cases outside china, with 763 confirmed cases and seven deaths. Italy has reported 124 cases, 24 of which are new infections reported this week, while Iran now has 43 confirmed cases with eight deaths. 

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However, he added that even with the increase, the outbreak has not reached pandemic potential.  “Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet,” he stressed.

He observes a need to focus on containment while doing everything possible to prepare for a potential pandemic.

The World Health Organisation urged the public to avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections. Exercise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment, avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals, practice cough etiquette by maintaining distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands).  

The recommendations are based on the fact that during previous outbreaks due to Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), human-to-human transmission occurred through droplets, contact and fomites, suggesting that the transmission mode of the COVID-19 can be similar. 

Within healthcare facilities, the health agency urges governments to enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments.

WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers but says that in case of symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travel, travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their healthcare provider.

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