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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: March 3, 2021 - 8:43am

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

March 3, 2021 - 8:43am

Brazil on Tuesday registers a record 1,641 deaths in 24 hours from Covid-19, health authorities announced, as the country endures a further worsening of the pandemic.

The country of 212 million inhabitants has recorded a total of 257,361 Covid-19 deaths, according to the health ministry, and has the second-highest national death toll after the United States.

Brazil continues to have a piecemeal response, with individual cities and states setting their own policies in the face of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's repeated attacks on restrictive measures and face masks. —  AFP

March 2, 2021 - 1:42pm

Insults, beatings, arrests — health workers battling the coronavirus were subjected to more than 400 acts of violence related to COVID-19 worldwide in 2020, according to a report published Tuesday by a health NGO.

The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition unveiled an interactive map that shows 1,172 violent acts and attacks occurred against health workers or facilities last year, "a minimum estimate," according to the NGO.

More than a third (412) of the acts are directly related to COVID-19, it said, citing several examples including in Mexico, where a nurse was attacked and injured by a group accusing her of spreading the virus.

In Dakar, three social workers had stones hurled at them by residents who refused to have a coronavirus victim buried near their homes.

In Birmingham, England, a health worker was spat at and insulted by a neighbor.

The vast majority, 80%, of the perpetrators of the violence were civilians, but threats also came from public authorities. — AFP

February 26, 2021 - 2:05pm

Japan will end a coronavirus state of emergency early in some regions as the pace of infection slows, reports say, less than five months before the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Olympics.

The emergency measure -- currently in force in 10 regions including Tokyo -- is looser than the strict lockdowns seen elsewhere in the world, and primarily calls for bars and restaurants to close from 8pm.

It is due to end on March 7, but the government will lift the measure this Sunday, just over a week early, in around six prefectures, the reports say. — AFP

February 26, 2021 - 8:45am

Brazil's death toll from Covid-19 surpasses a quarter-million Thursday, a year after the first case was confirmed in the country, which is struggling with vaccine shortages and a devastating second wave.

The new coronavirus has now killed 251,498 people in Brazil, according to health ministry figures — the second-highest toll worldwide, after the United States, where the number passed half a million Monday.

This has been the deadliest week yet of the pandemic in Brazil, with a daily average of 1,149 deaths over the past seven days, according to the ministry's figures. —  AFP

February 24, 2021 - 1:05pm

Fashionistas will have to log on to soak up the glamour at Milan Fashion Week, which remains online a year after the coronavirus first swept into northern Italy. 

No sharply dressed crowds will attend the extravaganza's opening on Wednesday: it's virtual catwalk shows only, with the likes of Armani and Prada presenting new women's collections for autumn and winter 2021-22. — AFP

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