WHO declares very high level threat for COVID-19

Feb. 28, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday raised its assessment of the novel coronavirus threat from high to very high at a global level. 

The latest updates on COVID-19, as reported by the WHO on February 28 included the following:

·        Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands and Nigeria have all reported their first cases. All these cases have links to Italy.

·          In the past 24 hours, China reported 329 cases—the lowest in more than a month.

·         China has reported a total of 78,959 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, including 2791 deaths.

·         Outside China, there are now 4351 cases in 49 countries, and 67 deaths.

·         24 cases have been exported from Italy to 14 countries, and 97 cases have been exported from Iran to 11 countries.

“The continued increase in the number of cases, and the number of affected countries over the last few days, are clearly of concern,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a video press conference Friday on the COVID-19 global health crisis.

“What we see at the moment are linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities,” Ghebreyesus said Friday’s press briefing. “As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts,” he said.

He also noted that the WHO-China Joint Mission has now published its report, which is available in English on the WHO website, and will also be posted in Chinese on the National Health Commission website.

The report includes a wealth of information, and 22 recommendations for China, for affected and unaffected countries, for the international community, and the general public. 

“It calls for all countries to educate their populations, to expand surveillance, to find, isolate and care for every case, to trace every contact, and to take an all-of-government and all-of-society approach—this is not a job for the health ministry alone,” he said.

At the same time, he said, more than 20 vaccines are in development globally, and several therapeutics are in clinical trials. WHO officials expect the first results of those trials in a few weeks.

During the briefing, he urged countries to prepare for cases and prevent onward transmission.

Ghebreyesus also outlined recommendations for the general public to follow, which included steps such as routine handwashing, regularly disinfecting kitchen surfaces, avoiding travel with a fever or cough, staying home when sick, seeking immediate medical attention for shortness of breath, and learning about COVID 19 from reputable sources.

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