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WHO Chief: Countries Must Prepare for Possible Coronavirus Pandemic

Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attends a news conference on the coronavirus (COVID-2019) in Geneva, Switzerland February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The director-general of the World Health Organization warns the coronavirus epidemic has reached a decisive point and all countries must prepare for the possibility of a global pandemic of this deadly respiratory disease.

The latest figures reported to WHO from China are 78,630 cases of COVID-19 in that country, including 2,747 deaths. Outside China, there are 3,474 reported cases in 44 countries, and 54 deaths.

The World Health Organization reports the number of new infections of coronavirus appears to be on the decline in China, while the disease is spreading more rapidly around the globe.

In the past two days, it said the number of new cases reported in the rest of the world has exceeded the number of new cases reported in China. And within the past day, seven new countries have reported their first case of Covid-19.

A woman walks into a pharmacy to purchase N95 face masks in advance of the potential coronavirus outbreak in the Manhattan borough of New York City, Feb. 27, 2020.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledges this is a matter of concern. But he notes the virus can be contained if all nations take the right measures.

“If you act aggressively now, you can contain this virus. You can prevent people getting sick. You can save lives,” Tedros said. “So my advice to these countries is to move swiftly ... Aggressive, early measures can prevent transmission before the virus gets a foothold.”

Tedros said WHO advocates a comprehensive approach. He said this virus does not respect borders, and nations must seek to prevent cases from infiltrating their territory. At the same time, he said they must have a plan ready to care for those who are sick and for stopping the virus from infecting others.

“Every country needs to be ready to detect cases early, to isolate patients, trace contacts, provide quality clinical care, prevent hospital outbreaks, and prevent community transmission,” Tedros said.

Tedros said Covid-19 has pandemic potential, but there is still time to prevent country epidemics from developing into a global pandemic. He said WHO is providing countries with the tools they need to help them prepare for this eventuality.

He notes WHO is shipping testing kits and personal protective equipment to dozens of countries. He says the agency has trained more than 80,000 health workers through online courses and is helping countries learn how to prevent, detect and manage cases.

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