World in uncharted territory in battle against virus: WHO, Latest World News - The New Paper

World in uncharted territory in battle against virus: WHO

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But WHO chief says with right measures, the virus can be contained

BEIJING: The world has entered uncharted territory in its battle against the deadly coronavirus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned, as new infections dropped dramatically in China yesterday but surged abroad, with the US death toll rising to six.

Globally, the number of cases rose to more than 92,000, including 3,127 deaths, across 77 countries and territories.

"We are in uncharted territory," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission but which can also be contained with the right measures.

"This is not a one-way street. We can push this virus back."

WHO has been questioned time and again on why it has yet to declare Covid-19 a pandemic.

Dr Tedros gave the assurance that the WHO will not hesitate to describe the outbreak as a pandemic if the evidence so suggests.

China reported 125 new cases yesterday, its lowest daily increase in six weeks, with all but 11 infections in Wuhan's central Hubei province.

It had more than 80,000 cases and the death toll rose to 2,943, with 31 more deaths reported, all in Hubei.

South Korea, Iran and Italy have emerged as major spawning grounds for the virus, but the US is now facing a potential pandemic with six people dying in the state of Washington.

Four of the deaths were linked to a nursing care facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, officials said. The total number of cases detected in Washington state now stands at 18, the most of any state.

"The risk for all of us of becoming infected will be increasing," said Dr Jeff Duchin, a health officer in King County where five of the deaths occurred.

The district is home to Seattle, a city with a population of more than 700,000 people.

There are 102 cases reported nationwide, according to the federal and state health officials.

At least four of the six people who died were either elderly or had underlying health conditions or both, Dr Duchin said.

"We expect the number of cases will continue to increase in the coming days and weeks, and we are taking this situation extremely seriously," he added.

Nevertheless, Vice-President Mike Pence, speaking at a White House briefing, said the risk to Americans remained low.

He declared that a treatment "could literally be available by this summer, or early fall".

He was likely referring to remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed by biotech company Gilead Sciences, which has already been used to treat one US patient and was moving towards two expansive final stage trials in Asia.

The US is viewed as vulnerable to an epidemic because of disparities in its health care system, including nearly 28 million people without coverage.


Iran's Health Ministry announced yesterday that 11 more people had died, bringing the overall death toll to 77.

In all, 2,336 people have been infected, including 835 new cases - the biggest increase in a single day since the outbreak began in the country nearly two weeks ago.

It now has the highest death toll outside China.

The country's head of emergency medical services, Dr Pirhossein Kolivand, has been infected, the ILNA news agency reported yesterday. Dr Kolivand's "health is good and there is no need for concern", the office said.


Tourist hot spots including the Duomo (cathedral) in Milan reopened to visitors yesterday, but access was limited to avoid overcrowding in a bid to contain the virus. Italy, Europe's worst-affected country with around 1,700 infections, said its death toll had jumped by 18 to 52.


President Joko Widodo urged residents yesterday to avoid panic buying of food and medical supplies, a day after the country confirmed its first two cases.

The President also said he had ordered police to crack down on people hoarding face masks to sell at a higher price.

Mr Joko said Indonesia was setting up a new hospital to treat patients on Galang island near Singapore. - AFP, REUTERS