COVID-19: ‘Top priority’ must be on containment, insists WHO’s Tedros

Containing the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic should still be everyone’s “top priority”, UN health agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

In total, 61 countries outside China have reported 8,739 cases of infection with 127 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General said.

Of nearly 90,000 cases globally so far, with around 3,000 fatalities, 90 per cent are in China – mostly in the province of Hubei – and of the 8,739 cases reported outside China, 81 per cent are from just four countries.

“The epidemic in the Republic of Korea, Italy and Iran and Japan are our greatest concern”, he said, before noting that a team of health professionals had arrived in Iran to deliver medical supplies and support the Government’s response to the disease.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Tedros noted that in the last 24 hours, there have been almost nine times more infections identified outside China than inside the country, where the virus emerged in December.

China seeing a fall in cases

The number of cases in China continues to decline, he added, with 206 cases detected on Sunday – the lowest since 22 January – and only eight cases identified outside Hubei province, the virus’s epicentre.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Republic of Korea reported 4,200 cases and 22 deaths – meaning that it has more than half of all cases outside China – but these infections appear to be coming from five known clusters rather than from wider community transmission.

A digitally-enhanced microscopic image shows a coronavirus infection in blue of the first case discovered in the United States. , by CDC/Hannah A Bullock/Azaibi Tami