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No Country is Safe from Coronavirus –WHO

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Outside China, there were 3,474 cases in 44 countries and 54 deaths, the WHO Directir General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said, highlighting with concern that for the past two days, the number of new cases in the rest of the world had exceeded the number of cases in China.
28 Feb 2020 10:23
Emergency room nurses wear face masks at Second People's Hospital of Shenzhen in China.

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All countries should do more to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus and none should make the “fatal” mistake of assuming that it won’t be affected, UN health agency chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said. 

Issuing an appeal after a new crop of countries confirmed that they had identified cases of infection for the first time, Tedros said that it was the responsibility of all governments to ensure that they acted swiftly. 

“Whether we get it wrong or right is in our hands… every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster, the first evidence of community transmission and for dealing with sustained community transmission… No country should assume it won’t get case," he added. 

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Citing the latest COVID-19 data, updated in Geneva on Thursday, the WHO Director-General said that China had confirmed 78,630 cases, including 2,747 deaths. Outside China, there were 3,474 cases in 44 countries and 54 deaths, Tedros continued, highlighting with concern that for the past two days, the number of new cases in the rest of the world had exceeded the number of cases in China. 

The seven countries to report cases for the first time in the past 24 hours are Brazil, Georgia, Greece, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan and Romania, Tedros noted. “If you act aggressively now, you can contain this virus,” he said, adding that in 90 per cent of cases it’s a fever and in 70 per cent it’s a cough. 

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There are also cases linked to Iran in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman as well as cases linked to Italy in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. While the spread of the virus in Iran, Italy, and the Republic of Korea had indicated what this virus is capable of, it can be contained, the WHO chief insisted.

He cited data from the Chinese province of Guangdong, where only 0.14 per cent of 320,000 samples tested positive for COVID-19. “The evidence we have is that there does not appear to be widespread community transmission. That suggested containment is possible”, he said. 

Citing several countries that had not reported further cases for more than two weeks - Belgium, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam – the WHO chief then cautioned that Finland and Sweden had reported new cases on Wednesday, after a break of two weeks without infections. 

“The point is not only to prevent cases arriving on your shores. The point is what you do when you have cases… 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,” he added. 

Meanwhile, amid reported xenophobic abuse aimed at Asian people in Europe and elsewhere, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has appealed for Member States to do their utmost to combat this and other forms of discrimination. Bachelet explained that the epidemic had set off a disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity. 

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Likening the outbreak to a test of our societies’ resilience, she insisted that human rights norms provided crucial guideposts that could improve the effectiveness of the response.

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