new coronavirus
Passengers wear face masks to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus as they arrive on a flight from Asia at Los Angeles International Airport, California, on Jan. 29, 2020. A new virus that has killed more than one hundred people, infected thousands and has already reached the US could mutate and spread, China warned, as authorities urged people to steer clear of Wuhan, the city at the heart of the outbreak.
Mark Ralston/AFP
COVID-19 breaches four new countries
Ratziel San Juan ( - February 27, 2020 - 10:58am

MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus disease 2019 has hit four new member states of the World Health Organization, with European countries Austria, Croatia and Switzerland along with Algeria in Africa reporting new cases in the past 24 hours.

Algeria is the first among 47 countries in the WHO World Health Organization African region to report a case of the virus, according to the WHO situational report released Thursday locally.

“The window of opportunity the continent (Africa) has had to prepare for coronavirus disease is closing. All countries must ramp up their preparedness activities," WHO Regional Director for Africa doctor Matshidiso Moeti said in a release.

The virus has now arrived in 37 countries outside of China.

COVID-19 has now infected at least 81,109 globally with most (96.4%) of the cases reported in China.

However, a total of 459 infections were confirmed outside of China in the past 24 hours, surpassing the 412 new cases the country reported locally.

“For the first time, since the onset of symptoms of the first identified case of COVID-19 on [Dec. 8, 2019], there have been more new cases reported from countries outside of China than from China,” WHO said in its latest situational report.

Meanwhile, the organization said there was no need to declare a pandemic as suggested by some politicians and media, reminding that it already issued a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, its “highest level of alarm.”

“Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems,” WHO Director-General Doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“It may also signal that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true. We are in a fight that can be won if we do the right things.”

He assured that health officials are constantly monitoring the evolution of the epidemic at hand and consulting internal and external experts.

“But the key message that should give all countries hope, courage and confidence is that this virus can be contained,” the director-general said.

“Indeed, there are many countries that have done exactly that. Fourteen countries that had cases have not reported a case for more than a week, and even more importantly, 9 countries have not reported a case for more than two weeks: Belgium, Cambodia, Finland, India, Nepal, Philippines, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka and Sweden.”

However, he said that this does not mean that cases will not return to these countries, only clarifying that the cases recorded have been contained.

“At the same time, all countries, whether they have cases or not, must prepare for a potential pandemic. Every country needs to be ready to detect cases early, to isolate patients, trace contacts, provide quality clinical care, prevent hospital outbreaks and prevent community transmission.”

He outlined three priorities: protecting health workers, engaging communities to protect people most at risk of severe disease (including elderly and those with underlying health conditions), and protecting the most vulnerable countries by containing the disease in countries with the capacity to do so.

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