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Coronavirus: WHO says world is in 'uncharted territory' as nations gear up to fight a 'unique' virus

Countries outside China have reported almost nine times more cases than those reported in China
UPDATED MAR 19, 2020
Coronavirus (AP Photo/Jae C Hong)
Coronavirus (AP Photo/Jae C Hong)

The world is venturing into "uncharted territory" as it prepares to fight the coronavirus that is circulating in more than 70 countries, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

The new coronavirus is unique. "We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said during a press briefing. "There is no choice but to act now," he added.

As China's worse days appear to be coming to an end, the rest of the world has just begun its struggle. Countries outside China have reported almost nine times more cases than those reported in China. The WHO has said that it is deeply concerned about the situation in South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan.

To fight the virus, the WHO has stressed on the importance of surveillance, while also stating that containing the spread should be the goal. “Containment is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries. With early, aggressive measures, countries can stop transmission and save lives," he said.

It is also reassuring that the virus does not spread like the flu. "If this was an influenza epidemic, we would have expected to see widespread community transmission across the globe by now, and efforts to slow it down or contain it would not be feasible," Tedros explained.

This offers us a ray of hope that we can suppress and contain the virus, according to Dr Mike Ryan,  the WHO’s  Executive Director, said.

Cases around the world

On March 3, 2020, China reported 125 new cases of confirmed infections -- the lowest in over two months -- and 31 deaths. The total number of people with COVID-19 around the world has now touched 90,000.

Outside China, the tally is 10,500, including at least 173 deaths. This means, over 88% of cases are still concentrated in China and mostly in the 'Hubei' province. 

On March 2, of over 88,000 confirmed cases around the world, 61 countries outside China had reported 8739 confirmed infections with 127 deaths.

About 81% of cases outside China are from four countries: South Korea, Japan, Iran, and Italy.

Coronavirus has spread to more than 60 countries, and more than 3,000 people have died from the COVID-19 illness it causes (AP Photo/Jae C Hong)

South Korea is witnessing the largest outbreak outside China. With 600 new coronavirus infections confirmed in one day, the total has now crossed 4,800. The virus has killed 29 people in the country. 

Italy ranks second after South Korea. Bearing the highest disease burden in Europe, the country has recorded more than 2,000 cases.  In response, the European Union has raised its alert level to high from moderate.

Shutting down many of its towns, Italy is following China's model, which placed Wuhan and other affecting cities under lockdown, blocking transportation into and out of the city.

Iran has the highest death toll outside China, with at least 66 fatalities.  But according to the BBC, the death toll in Iran is at least 210 people.  Around 1,500 people have been infected in the country. 

The WHO has come to Iran's rescue, sending them aid to curb the quickly spreading coronavirus epidemic. Some of their experts are in the country evaluating the situation on the ground.

Following Iran is Japan: As many as 274 of its people battling the virus and six people are dead. The number of cases from the infamous Diamond Princess cruise ship that was earlier quarantined off Japan's shores stands at 706. 

On Monday, a handful of countries including Latvia, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, and Senegal confirmed their positive cases. The virus has now reached more than 70 countries and territories.

In the US, the situation is getting dire, as more cases are emerging. The virus has sickened 102 people, killing six people in Washington. The country also reported community spread last week.

Of the 102 cases, 48 are from those rescued from quarantine. Eleven states have confirmed that 54 people have the virus.

According to a survey by global market research firm Ipsos, four out of five Americans think governments should quarantine entire cities if coronavirus spirals out of control.