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Spread of coronavirus confirms WHO fears, say experts
Market workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant at a market in the southeastern city of Daegu on February 23, 2020 as a preventive measure after the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. South Korea reported two additional deaths from coronavirus and 123 more cases on February 23, with nearly two thirds of the new patients connected to a religious sect. The national toll of 556 cases is now the second-highest outside of China.
AFP/Yonhap

Spread of coronavirus confirms WHO fears, say experts

Stéphane Orjollet (Agence France-Presse) - February 24, 2020 - 8:36am

PARIS, France — The sharp rise in cases and the geographical spread of the coronavirus outside China confirm WHO fears over dealing with the crisis, experts warned Sunday as they appealed for ever greater vigilance.

"There has been a profound shift in the direction that COVID-19 (new coronavirus) is taking over the past 48 hours," said Professor Devi Sridhar, Director of the Global Health Governance Programme at the University of Edinburgh Medical School.

"The WHO and its member state governments now need to be thinking about transitioning from containment to mitigation, ie. reducing the negative impacts of continued transmission," Sridhar warned. 

On Friday, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had already sounded the alarm, saying the window to stem the virus was shrinking.

"We are still in a phase where containment is possible... our window of opportunity is narrowing," he warned, adding if countries did not quickly mobilise to counter the virus spread, matters could get "messy."

He also warned that Africa's poor health infrastructure left it vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease, which has spilled out of China to more than 25 countries.

Those fears have been compounded by three fatalities in recent days in Italy --  where some 50,000 people are in lockdown  -- eight in Iran and six in South Korea.

The WHO has expressed concern at the apparent emergence of cases without a clear epidemiological link to China, where it emerged.

'Anywhere in the world'

"It's what we call the passage to community transmission," said Professor Arnaud Fontanet, specialist in epidemiology of emerging diseases at France's Pasteur Institute.

"That renders controlling it much more difficult and presages the risk of its introduction beyond China."

Cases in both Lebanon and Canada appear to have emanated from Iran, for example, while, in Italy, scientists are puzzled that they cannot trace a link between several cases of sufferers with no apparent links to infected persons. 

"What is happening in Italy and South Korea and Iran could happen anywhere in the world," said Sridhar. 

Nathalie MacDermott, lecturer at King's College London, said "the evolving situation in South Korea, Iran and Italy is very concerning.

"There has been the expectation that some countries might develop person to person transmission of SARS-COV2 following an imported case of infection from an affected country.

"What is concerning is the lack of clear contact with such an individual in initiating clusters in these three countries, and particularly in Iran and Italy."

MacDermott urged all countries to take prompt action "to try and contain these clusters before there is dissemination to large proportions of the population."

"I think this is a new phase" in the propagation of the virus as new chains of transmission emerge from previously undetected cases, says Eric D'Ortenzio, epidemiologist at France's Inserm medical research institute.

He likewise urged increased surveillance for any potential emergence of home-grown cases as well as areas known to be already affected by the outbreak.

2019-NCOV COVID-19 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 23, 2021 - 1:59pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

July 23, 2021 - 1:59pm

China says a WHO proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic showed "disrespect" and "arrogance towards science".

Last week, the World Health Organization said a second stage of the international probe should include audits of Chinese labs, amid increasing pressure from the United States for an investigation into a biotech lab in Wuhan. 

The proposal outlined by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus included "audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019" -- referring to the Chinese city of Wuhan. — AFP

July 23, 2021 - 11:59am

State leaders say that Sydney's fast-growing coronavirus outbreak has become a "national emergency," as Australia's largest city reported another record number of new infections.

Admitting a month-long lockdown had so far failed to stop a Delta-variant outbreak, the state of New South Wales pleaded for Canberra to urgently send more vaccines and resources.

Declaring the outbreak a national emergency could pave the way for more federal government involvement in stemming the crisis. — AFP

July 21, 2021 - 6:29pm

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte confirms that her brother, Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte tested positive for COVID-19.

July 21, 2021 - 11:05am

People wanting to go to cinemas, museums, sporting matches and other cultural venues in France will have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test starting Wednesday, as the country braces for a feared spike in cases from the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The so-called "health pass" will be required for all events or places with more than 50 people, before being extended to restaurants, cafes and shopping centres in August, President Emmanuel Macron announced in a televised address last week.

Once inside, however, people can take off their face masks, which remain necessary inside shops or businesses or on public transportation. — AFP

July 19, 2021 - 8:41pm

England lifts most pandemic restrictions Monday despite surging infections and dire warnings from experts, as the Delta variant sweeps parts of Europe and Asia.

In Britain, daily infections have climbed, averaging more than 50,000 since last week, with Delta taking hold in many areas. 

But despite accusations against the UK government of recklessness, it lifted legal mandates on social distancing, wearing masks and working from home, urging personal responsibility instead. — AFP

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