Beijing: Global efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak intensified on Tuesday with a team of WHO experts holding in-depth exchanges with specialists here, as the death toll from the deadly infection in China crossed 1,000 while the confirmed cases rose to 42,708.
The World Health Organisation convened a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday to fast-track promising tests, drugs and vaccines to help slow the outbreak that has spread to over 20 countries, including India.
The death toll on Monday rose to 1,017 with confirmed cases totalling to 42,708 in China. The confirmed cases abroad have gone up to 390, health officials here said.
A 15-member advance team of the WHO specialists led by Bruce Aylward, a veteran of past public health emergencies which arrived here on Monday night, began consultations with their Chinese counterparts on Tuesday.
They will join with Chinese experts to conduct in-depth exchanges on the situation and epidemic prevention and control, China’s Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said.
“We welcome experts from all countries, including the United States, to participate in the team of experts. We believe that after consultation and communication, we can make appropriate arrangements for the joint team in China,” he said.
Some 400 scientists will be meeting on February 11-12 in Geneva to discuss all aspects of the virus, the WHO announced.
“On 11-12 February, WHO is convening a global research and innovation forum to mobilize international action, and identify knowledge gaps and research priorities to contribute to the control of #2019nCoV, a WHO tweet said.
This is the biggest gathering of specialists to evaluate the coronavirus which surfaced in December last year and wreaked havoc in China.
The Chinese government has sealed 18 cities with over 50 million people in the virus-hit Hubei province including its provincial capital Wuhan to prevent its spread.
Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO told the media in Geneva that it is important to have risk management procedures associated with the virus are worked out at the earliest.
“You can’t shut the world either and normal activity must go on,” he said.
The two-day forum in Geneva will try to work out a roadmap to deal with the coronavirus in China and around the world. This includes the development of medication and vaccines, state run CGTN TV reported on Tuesday.
The world’s leading experts will bring together all their expertise from around the globe to focus their attention on how best to try and defeat the coronavirus, the report said.
They will examine issues like how to fill the knowledge gaps of virus, focus their discussions on specifics like how it is transmitted in particular. Most crucial is to develop medicine in particular and a vaccine to contain it.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has removed several senior officials in Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic, for their mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Those sacked included the party secretary for the Hubei Health Commission, and the head of the commission, official media reported.
Last week, three Chinese officials of the Red Cross Society in Hubei province were punished for improperly dealing with donations for the prevention and control of the epidemic.