New coronavirus: Threat of global pandemic is real, says WHO chief Ghebreyesus

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

With the new coronavirus spreading across the world, the threat of a global pandemic has become real, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva. The reported COVID-19 cases in 100 countries has crossed 100,000, but more than 70% of the 80,000 reported cases in China have recovered, he said at a conference call from WHO headquarters on Monday. “The bottom line is: we are not at the mercy of this virus,” he said.

The WHO did not declare a global pandemic, but indicated that it was close despite China successfully containing the spread. WHO officials said China and Singapore have managed to slow down or stop transmission of the disease. They said around 80% of the cases develop mild symptoms while the rest exhibit severe symptoms. People with heart diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes will face higher risk for death. The death rate among elderly is very high, while children seem to be safer.

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While the infection was first detected in Hubei province of China in December, it has spread across several nations since then. There are more than 111,000 confirmed new coronavirus cases globally. Korea has more than 7,500 infections, while Italy and Iran have at least 7,000 cases each till Monday morning. India has more than 46 confirmed cases. There are around 80 nations with less than 100 confirmed infections each.

Authorities of Hubei province will implement a mobile-phone-based monitoring system to remove travel restrictions within the province to facilitate resumption of work at offices and factories. China’s President Xi Jinping reached Wuhan and is holding meetings with medical workers fighting the outbreak.

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The whole of Italy is under quarantine, as the country’s government struggles to contain the outbreak that has killed 463 of its citizens. All places of public gathering such as cinemas, theatres and nightclubs remain closed, while religious ceremonies including weddings and funerals are postponed.