Coronavirus pandemic

WHO sees intense transmission of virus in relatively few countries

Two-thirds of cases from 10 nations; WHO chief says people shouldn't let guard down

US fire department personnel help a woman who fell from her wheelchair amid the Covid-19 pandemic in hard-hit Imperial County, California.
US fire department personnel help a woman who fell from her wheelchair amid the Covid-19 pandemic in hard-hit Imperial County, California.PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA • The World Health Organisation (WHO) is seeing intense transmission of the coronavirus in relatively few countries, its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.

"We continue to see intense transmission in a relatively small group of countries," he told a virtual briefing in Geneva. "Two-thirds of all cases are from 10 countries. Almost half of all cases reported so far are from just three countries."

United States coronavirus cases exceeded four million on Thursday, with over 2,600 new cases every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally. Infections in the US have rapidly accelerated since the first case was detected on Jan 21.

It took the country 98 days to reach one million cases. It took another 43 days to reach two million, and then 27 days to reach three million.

It has taken only 16 days to reach four million at a rate of 43 new cases a minute.

Dr Tedros also said that just because cases may be at a low level where someone lives does not mean that he should let down his guard. "Know your situation - do you know how many cases were reported where you live yesterday? Do you know how to find that information? Do you know how to minimise your exposure?" he said.

Meanwhile, a Chinese city of nearly six million people will introduce a wave of coronavirus testing to stamp out a small cluster of cases, the authorities said yesterday, with state media reporting that communities will be locked down.

Since the virus first surfaced in the central city of Wuhan late last year, the country's official number of infections has been restricted to a trickle, mainly among arrivals from abroad. All mass lockdowns have been lifted. But recent domestic outbreaks have proven the difficulty of stamping out the contagion entirely.

The port city of Dalian in north-eastern Liaoning province has reported three cases in recent days after going nearly four months without any. The fresh outbreak has been linked to a seafood processing company that deals with imported products.

Yesterday, the Dalian health commission said the city had to "quickly enter wartime mode, go all out, mobilise all people and resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic".

It announced strict new measures, including on-the-spot nucleic acid tests for everyone taking the subway line that passes the affected seafood company. Kindergartens and nurseries have been closed, and some communities have been placed under lockdown, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.

A document published on Thursday by China's State Council also warned that the country's public health system should prepare for a possible second wave of the virus in the winter... China reported 21 new coronavirus cases for Thursday, compared with 22 cases a day earlier, the health commission said yesterday.

The city authorities said they would test more than 190,000 people, including employees at shopping malls, wholesale markets and warehouses.

The outbreak comes as hundreds of football players from the Chinese Super League - which will kick off its much delayed season today - are in a sealed-off hotel in the city. The league's 16 teams have been split into two groups for the first games of the drastically rejigged season, with the others to be played in Suzhou, near Shanghai.

The latest cluster has turned the spotlight on the country's food supply chain, and China has banned imports from a number of overseas food producers involved in virus outbreaks. One Chinese importer told Agence France-Presse that exporters had earlier been asked to guarantee that their shipments were not contaminated.

A document published on Thursday by China's State Council also warned that the country's public health system should prepare for a possible second wave of the virus in the winter.

At a press conference earlier this month, officials said samples taken from whiteleg shrimp packaging in Dalian had tested positive for the virus.

China reported 21 new coronavirus cases for Thursday, compared with 22 cases a day earlier, the health commission said yesterday.

Of the new infections, 13 were in the far western region of Xinjiang, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. Two were in Dalian city, while the remaining six were imported cases.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2020, with the headline 'WHO sees intense transmission of virus in relatively few countries'. Subscribe