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First-ever pandemic caused by a coronavirus whose behaviour is not known: WHO

WHO teams are studying preliminary research and real-time data shared by different countries in order to make policy recommendations.

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Geneva: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise and officials are “deeply concerned”.

That was the message at a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing Wednesday that stressed the need for continued resolve, collaboration and unity, as scientists look for new ways to fight the virus.

This week brought a number of disturbing milestones in terms of confirmed cases. Numbers in the US have surpassed 100,000, for instance, and cases have now been reported in nearly every country, territory and area.

“The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases – and 50,000 deaths.”

The need to test, trace and isolate cases remains essential for all countries, said officials.

Responding to a reporter’s question regarding new reports about the reliability of Chinese coronavirus data, the WHO explained that every country has reported data in different ways based on resources and situation.

“There’s been a deluge of scientifically-based, evidence-based publications coming out on a daily basis,” said Michael J. Ryan, Chief Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. “We need to be careful to not to be profiling certain parts of the world as being non-transparent. We need to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges.”

“Are we saying that the lack of precise information from Italy on the condition of patients is because of lack of transparency? Or because we have a system overwhelmed with thousands of patients coming in and doctors and nurses struggling to provide basic care?” he noted.

Also read: What are wet markets? The virus ‘breeding grounds’ thought to have led to Covid-19 outbreak

“Sometimes we attribute lack of transparency to what are natural limitations of the crisis,” Ryan explained. “We need to look at the context here.”

At the same time, officials highlighted the importance of being open to the emerging science. Their teams are wading through preliminary research, and studying real-time data shared by a number of countries to help inform policy recommendations.

“This is the first-ever pandemic caused by a coronavirus whose behavior is not really known,” said the Director General. “To that, I would also add: It’s a new virus, too.”

“There are many unknowns,” said the Director-General. “We have to stand in unison to fight this dangerous virus.”

This article was originally published in the World Economic Forum.

Also read: Now, Singapore to close schools and most workplaces as Covid-19 cases rise


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