Coronavirus outbreak: WHO chief warns that this is just the 'tip of the iceberg' as virus spreads across globe
According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the outbreak outside China appeared to be slow at the moment but it could take a turn for the worse
The Chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed his concerns over how coronavirus has been spreading in countries outside China, including among people with no travel history to that country.
"There have been some concerning instances of onward #2019nCoV spread from people with no travel history to China. The detection of a small number of cases may indicate more widespread transmission in other countries; in short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted recently.
He added that the outbreak outside China appeared to be slow at the moment but it could take a turn for the worse. " Containment remains our objective, but all countries must use the window of opportunity created by the containment strategy to prepare for the virus’s possible arrival," Ghebreyesus said.
On February 9, China saw the highest number of deaths recorded in a single day since the outbreak began — 97 deaths. The total death toll in the country stands at 908.
What is concerning, the number of fatalities in China is higher than the global toll from the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak. The total number of people infected with coronavirus has risen to 40,171 — a jump of 3,062 from the previous day. Earlier, China had reported a decline in the number of new infections in a day, ushering in some cheer among authorities. Millions of people are returning to work on Monday, according to reports.
“At this moment is very difficult to predict when we are going to have an inflection point.” He added: “We certainly hope it will come soon, but the isolation and quarantine measures have been very effective,” China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming told the BBC on Sunday.
But Sunday's uptick has unleashed a degree of uncertainty over the spread. The WHO has urged various countries to ramp up efforts by increasing lab capacity for rapid diagnosis, contact tracing, and other tools to fight the outbreak that has infected over 40,710 people worldwide.
The WHO has been accepting donations to help vulnerable countries fight the epidemic. But the organization is yet to reach its target of $675 million.
In the meantime, the agency has sent a team of experts to Beijing to help investigate China’s coronavirus epidemic. "I’ve just been at the airport seeing off members of an advance team for the @WHO -led #2019nCoV international expert mission to #China, led by Dr Bruce Aylward, a veteran of past public health emergencies," he wrote in a tweet.