Coronavirus is still an emergency for China, says WHO chief

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Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus updates on the coronavirus at the 56th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Feb 15, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MUNICH - The coronavirus outbreak is still an emergency for China and it is impossible to tell where the epidemic will spread, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said on Saturday (Feb 15).

Dr Tedros told the Munich Security Conference in Germany that actions taken by China has slowed the spread of virus but he was still concerned about the increasing number of cases there, Reuters reported.

"We are encouraged that the steps China has taken to contain the outbreak at its source appear to have bought the world time, even though those steps have come at greater cost to China itself. But it's slowing the spread to the rest of the world," said Dr Tedros.

The flu-like virus first emerged in December in Wuhan, the capital city of central China's Hubei province, and has since killed over 1,520 people worldwide.

"We're concerned by the continued increase in the number of cases in China," said Dr Tedros, who also pointed to what he said was the lack of urgency in funding the emergency response from the international community.

The WHO chief said an international team of experts is now on the ground in China to understand the outbreak, and to inform the next steps in the global response.

At the conference, Dr Tedros also urged the international community to fight back fake news over the coronavirus outbreak that has caused episodes of panic to the people.

"Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous," he said. "We call on all governments, companies and news organisations to work with us to sound the appropriate level of alarm, without fanning the flames of hysteria."

Without naming governments, the WHO leader said in many countries, measures have been taken by one part of government without appropriate consultation with the health ministry, or consideration of the impact of these measures.

"Now more than ever is the time for us to let science and evidence lead policy," he said.

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