Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID – 19): WHO Update (24 February 2020)

WHO – Press Conference: Update on the situation regarding Coronavirus Disease (COVID – 19) (Geneva, 24 February 2020)

We’re in a phase of preparedness for a potential pandemic,” officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday at a press briefing in Geneva, in their update on the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus.

“Now is the time to prepare,” said Dr Micheal Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme. “It is time to do everything you would do in preparing for a pandemic.”

Dr Ryan explained that the WHO can sometime announce an influenza pandemic earlier since “we know we’ve had previous pandemics and we know with influenza that when there is highly efficient community transmission, as we see with seasonal flu, that the disease does spread around the world.”

According to the WHO, as of 24 February, 79 331 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed globally, with China accounting for the vast majority of cases (77 262). WHO’s officials have visited China recently and praised the country’s government for good management of the crisis.

“It is clear that China and a number of other countries with smaller events have managed to suppress and contain the virus,” he said. “So, we have to now see, can we learn the lessons? And I think that’s going to be one of the important things coming from the mission to China, is collating and bringing together all of that experience that China’s had over the last eight weeks, to see what we can learn about, what the right things to do, what works, what doesn’t work, what’s effective, what’s not effective,” Dr Rayan added.

For his part, WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “every country must make its own risk assessment for its own context. WHO is also continuing to do its own risk assessment and is monitoring the evolution of the epidemic around the clock.”

WHO also warned against an increasing number of reports of public stigmatization against people from areas affected by the epidemic and called for cooperation between countries in containing the outbreak.

“This is about good risk management. It’s about good communication between States,” said WHO’s Dr Rayan. “It’s about management and early detection of cases and their appropriate isolation and treatment. It’s not about shutting borders, it’s about, coherent, coordinated public health action by a number of Member States who share borders in order to effectively manage the public health consequences of, any importation of COVID-19.”

As of Monday (24 Feb), 77 331 case of COVID-19 was confirmed globally – 77 262 in China alone and 2069 in 29 other countries. 2618 people have died from the disease.