Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID – 19): WHO Update (27 February 2020)

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The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said that for the past two days, there were fewer new cases reported in China than in the rest of the world, adding that in the past 24 hours, seven countries have reported cases for the first time.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva today (27 Feb), Tedros said Brazil, Georgia, Greece, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, and Romania each reporters cases for the first time. In a message to the newly affected countries he said, “This is your window of opportunity. If you act aggressively now, you can contain this virus. You can prevent people getting sick. You can save lives. So, my advice to these countries is to move swiftly.”

Tedros said in Guangdong, scientists tested more than 320,000 samples from the community and only 0.14% were positive for COVID-19, which suggests “that containment is possible.”

The WHO chief said 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.” He said every country must be preparing for all those scenarios at the same time. He added, “No country should assume it won’t get cases, that could be a fatal mistake, quite literally. This virus does not respect borders. It does not distinguish between races or ethnicities. It has no regard for a country’s GDP or level of development.”

Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said there were vulnerable populations in “every country” including older people and people with underlying medical conditions. He said, “We also need to move to build capacity to treat and save lives everywhere, not just in one part of the world.”

Ryan said the the best way of making a diagnosis is still with a validated test in a lab, adding that almost all countries in the world now have that capacity to conduct these tests. He warned that the data from China and other places does not suggest that asymptomatic people are the driving force behind this epidemic, adding that this was becoming a sort of a myth.

The Executive Director said, “It’s not to suggest that scientifically someone cannot be infectious before they’re sick. That could happen. But the vast majority of transmission and this epidemic is occurring from symptomatic individuals to other individuals, that it’s important to get that. None of the data from the extensive studies to China have shown that asymptomatic individuals have been driving this epidemic. So that’s important to reassure people. Not saying it can’t happen, but it’s not the major factor in this epidemic.”