Why the World Health Organization is increasingly concerned

It is a sign of nervousness that does not deceive. While in northern Italy, public places were closed on Friday in eleven cities due to the discovery of new coronavirus carriers, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern the absence of a “clear epidemiological link” in cases that have arisen outside of China.

Those are shops, bars, schools, churches, stadiums, libraries and other places that have been closed for a week in Italy. A total of 16 additional people tested positive, at least six of whom had their cases confirmed.

In Geneva, the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also sounded the alarm:

“As we speak, we are still in a phase where it is possible to contain the epidemic.” But the “window of fire is narrowing,” he warned, lamenting the lack of international financial support.

“We see that the situation is changing”

According to the latest WHO figures released on Friday, 2,239 deaths were recorded out of 75,569 confirmed cases in mainland China (or 2.96%). Outside this country, WHO recorded Friday 8 deaths for some 1,200 confirmed cases of contamination in 26 countries and territories. Italy and especially Iran have since announced new fatal cases.

Indeed, the foci of the disease multiply. In addition to Italy and Iran, a first case has been confirmed in Lebanon and Israel. There has been a doubling of the number of people affected in South Korea and some 500 prisoners have been infected in China.

WHO is particularly concerned about the emergence of cases outside of China “without a clear epidemiological link, such as travel history and contact with a confirmed case”.

“We see that the situation is changing,” said Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of the Global Preparedness for Infectious Risks department at WHO: “Not only is the number of cases increasing, but we are also seeing different patterns of transmission in different places” .

The number of new cases has gone up again

The WHO refuses for the moment to speak about pandemic, but considers that there are “different epidemics, showing different phases”, she explained.

In this regard, the specialized agency of the United Nations has announced the appointment of six special envoys, including David Nabarro, the former UN coordinator for Ebola during the epidemic in West Africa between late 2013 and 2016.

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Highlighting once again the “serious” measures taken by China to contain the epidemic in Hubei province and in particular in the city of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus appeared in December, the WHO boss called on “other countries” to be also “very, very serious”.

If the number of new daily cases in China fell for four consecutive days, it started to rise again (at least 889, against 673 the day before), the Ministry of Health announced on Friday. More than 50 million people in Hubei are however placed in quarantine.

In addition, although several states have banned the entry of travelers from China and many airlines have suspended their flights to this country, this has not prevented the emergence of new cases elsewhere in the world.

Africa poorly prepared

The WHO also warned this Saturday that health systems in Africa were ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus epidemic if cases of contamination appeared and multiplied on the continent.

During a meeting of the ministers of health of the African Union (AU) countries in Addis Ababa, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on its member states to “join forces to be more aggressive” in the fight against the disease to Covid-19 coronavirus.

“Our main (source of) concern continues to be the potential for dissemination of Covid-19 in countries with more precarious health systems,” said the head of the WHO in a video link from Geneva.

So far, Egypt is the only country in Africa to have registered a confirmed case of contamination. More than 200 suspected cases have been identified in countries in the WHO African region, most of the continent, but almost all have turned out to be negative, regional director of Africa Matshidiso Rebecca said on Saturday Moeti.

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