Coronavirus (COVID-19): Latest news from Monday’s World Health Organization briefing

coronavirus cdc_

(CDC, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

  • World Health Organization holds regular media briefing to update public on the COVID-19 outbreak. Streamed live at 17.00 CET on Monday 9 March.
  • Global number of coronavirus infections has surpassed 100,000 but the spread can still be controlled.
  • Countries with community transmission could consider closing schools, cancelling mass gatherings.

Today’s World Health Organization briefing updated journalists on the progress being made and the work still to be done to fight coronavirus. Here’s what was covered – and what you need to know.

Reasons for hope
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus opened today’s briefing with an update on the Ebola epidemic in DRC. It’s now three weeks since last case was reported and week since last survivor left treatment centre. “We’re now in the countdown to end the outbreak.”

Regarding the spread of COVID-19, “the threat of pandemic has become very real,” he said. “But this would be the first pandemic that could be controlled.

“We’re not at the mercy of the virus.”

No “pandemic” yet
The WHO has been reluctant to use the word “pandemic” and the briefing added additional clarification regarding why the term isn’t yet appropriate. A “pandemic,” said Dr Michael Ryan, WHO Executive Director, means the “disease has reached a point where it spreads uncontrolled from country to country.” Said Ryan, the WHO is now seeing real success in some countries at turning the disease around.

Epidemic curve of COVID-19 cases reported outside China, through to 8 March.
Image: World Health Organisation
Dr Tedros concluded that only a handful of countries had shown signs of sustained community transmission, meaning “most countries still have sporadic #COVID19 cases or defined clusters. We must all take heart from that,” he said.

“The rule of the game is: never give up.”

Work still to do

To end transmission and prevent the spread of the virus, countries’ fundamental elements should be the same, Tedros warned. “It’s not about either containment or mitigation, it’s about both,” he said, pointing to newly consolidated WHO guidance for countries in four categories available on the WHO website.

“Depending on their context, countries with #COVID19 community transmission could consider closing schools, cancelling mass gatherings and other measures to reduce exposure,” he said.

Managing shortages
As to what concrete actions the WHO has taken to mitigate the effects of the outbreak globally. “We’ve shipped supplies of personal protective equipment to 57 countries, we’re preparing to ship to a further 28, and we’ve shipped lab supplies to 120 countries.” In addition, almost 300 million US dollars have been pledged to the WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

Next steps? Protection and cooperation
In the view of Dr Ryan, the fate of the virus is more in the hands of society than the virus itself. It’s down to how societies and individuals take responsibility to protect themselves and others.

Though as the seasons change, so too could the incidence of the disease, he warned. “We’re still very much in the ‘up’ cycle of the epidemic, with a number of miles to go.”

“But the way in which China, Singapore, Korea and Japan are at various points of turning a corner – gives us hope. It’s clear there’s an element of controlability. We need to seize that.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead
Dr Michael Ryan, WHO Executive Director

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