Coronavirus: WHO expert warns 'world not ready' for pandemic even as deadly disease spreads to more countries

The virus has emerged strongly in Italy, Iran and South Korea, sparking widespread panic


                            Coronavirus: WHO expert warns 'world not ready' for pandemic even as deadly disease spreads to more countries
(Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP)

The new coronavirus seems to be unstoppable as infections soar in several parts of the world. The virus has emerged strongly in Italy, Iran and South Korea, sparking panic and concerns. And amid the rising cases, Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said  that "the world is simply not ready." 

“You have to be ready to manage this at a larger scale,” he said, adding that other countries must learn how to tackle the outbreak from China.  The expert made these comments after leading an international mission to China on COVID-19.

In China, the outbreak appears to be on a decline: the country has recorded 406 new cases of confirmed infections and 52 deaths, as of February 25. China’s epidemic has peaked and the numbers are on their way down, thanks to an unprecedented engagement at every level by the Chinese, he said.

Bruce Aylward, Team Lead WHO-China joint mission on COVID-19, speaks to the media about the COVID-19 after returning from China, during a press conference (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

After China, South Korea bears the highest number of cases, with health authorities confirming 115 cases of the novel coronavirus as of February 26, bringing the total number in the country to 1,261. Following South Korea is Japan, where 861 people have tested positive, including 691 from the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship which was earlier docked off Japan's shore.

While Italy witnessed a 45% increase in infections in just a day, other countries in Europe such as Austria, Croatia, and Switzerland have confirmed their first cases Tuesday. Overall, in Italy, the infection has sickened 322 people and killed 11 others.

Spain, France, and Germany have reported new cases involving people who had recently been to northern Italy — the epicenter of the outbreak in the country.

Iran has confirmed the COVID-19 in 95 people.  Reports suggest that 15 people have died of the disease. The Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told reporters that the outbreak was "likely" to spread to unaffected provinces "soon". They are hoping to contain its spread by March 20. Other Middle-Eastern countries such as Kuwait and Bahrain are also seeing a rise.

Meanwhile, authorities in Brazil have tested a 61-year-old man who is showing signs of the disease after returning from Italy. Doctors are awaiting his results. 

According to Aylward, as soon as countries see cases, they have to be ready to stop this at a larger scale. To prepare for the outbreaks, he recommends that countries should stock up supplies, including beds to isolate people, oxygen support, lab capacity to test thousands of people per day. He added that isolating those infected and their close contacts is important to curb its spread.

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