Coronavirus: World must prepare for pandemic, says WHO

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BBC.COM -The World Health Organization has said the world should do more to prepare for a possible coronavirus pandemic.
The WHO said it was too early to call the outbreak a pandemic but countries should be “in a phase of preparedness”.
A pandemic is when an infectious disease spreads easily from person to person in many parts of the world.
More cases of the virus, which causes respiratory disease Covid-19, continue to emerge, with outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran causing concern.
However, most infections are in China, the original source of the virus, where more than 77,000 people have the disease and over 2,600 have died.
More than 1,200 cases have been confirmed in about 30 other countries and there have been more than 20 deaths. Italy reported four more deaths on Monday, raising the total there to seven.
Worldwide stock markets saw sharp falls because of concerns about the economic impact of the virus.
China said it would postpone the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress next month, to “continue the efforts” against the coronavirus.
The body, which approves decisions made by the Communist Party, has met every year since 1978.
The proportion of infected people who die from Covid-19 appears to be between 1% and 2%, although the WHO cautions that the mortality rate is not known yet.
On Monday Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain reported their first cases, all involving people who had come from Iran. Officials in Bahrain said the patient infected there was a school bus driver, and several schools had been closed as a result.
Among other developments:
• Some upcoming football matches in Italy’s Serie A and the Europa League will be played behind closed doors to prevent the spread of the virus, Italy’s sports minister says
• Gold surged to its highest price in seven years as coronavirus fears led investors to seek a safe haven
• South Korean pop group BTS asks fans to stay away from upcoming TV shows, which will be taped without a studio audience
• North Korea has quarantined 380 foreigners in a bid to stop the coronavirus from breaking out.
What does the WHO say?
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday that the number of new cases in recent days in Iran, Italy and South Korea was “deeply concerning”.
However he added: “For the moment we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large scale severe disease or deaths.
“Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”
“The key message that should give all countries hope, courage and confidence is that this virus can be contained, indeed there are many countries that have done exactly that,” Mr Tedros said.
“Using the word ‘pandemic’ now does not fit the facts but may certainly cause fear.”
But Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, said now was the time to make “do everything you would do to prepare for a pandemic”.
‘Pandemic’ is just a word
Is the coronavirus a pandemic? For now the WHO says no. It argues the number of countries with outbreaks, the severity of the disease and the impact on society has not reached pandemic-level.
But some scientists – assessing the same picture – think we are already there and others say we’re on the cusp. The surge in cases in South Korea and the deaths in Iran and Italy have dialled up concern over the past few days.
The deaths suggest there are far more cases in those two countries than have been reported and that the virus has been there for some time.
But ultimately the word pandemic is just that – a word – it will not unlock more money or give the WHO new powers. It has already issued the highest warning it can, by declaring the virus a global emergency.
“The key message that should give all countries hope, courage and confidence is that this virus can be contained, indeed there are many countries that have done exactly that,” Mr Tedros said.
“Using the word ‘pandemic’ now does not fit the facts but may certainly cause fear.”
But Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, said now was the time to make “do everything you would do to prepare for a pandemic”.
‘Pandemic’ is just a word
Is the coronavirus a pandemic? For now the WHO says no. It argues the number of countries with outbreaks, the severity of the disease and the impact on society has not reached pandemic-level.
But some scientists – assessing the same picture – think we are already there and others say we’re on the cusp. The surge in cases in South Korea and the deaths in Iran and Italy have dialled up concern over the past few days.
The deaths suggest there are far more cases in those two countries than have been reported and that the virus has been there for some time.
But ultimately the word pandemic is just that – a word – it will not unlock more money or give the WHO new powers. It has already issued the highest warning it can, by declaring the virus a global emergency.

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