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WHO chief urges international effort in virus fight

(China Daily) -- The head of the World Health Organisation has called on nations worldwide to show solidarity and make the most of the window of opportunity in the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the opportunity was created because of the serious measures China had taken to fight the virus in Wuhan and other cities.
He called on the world to fight the new virus as aggressively as possible.
“You strike hard when the window of opportunity is there. That’s what we’re saying to the rest of the world. Let’s be serious in using the window of opportunity we have,” he told a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.
According to the WHO, there had been 42,708 confirmed cases in China and more than 1,017 deaths as of 6 am on Tuesday, Geneva time. Outside China, there were 393 cases in 24 countries, with one death, in the Philippines.

Director-General of  WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 6, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Ghebreyesus revealed that the first vaccine could be ready in 18 months, adding that “we have to do everything today using the available weapons to fight this virus, while preparing for the long-term.”
On Tuesday, the WHO announced that the disease caused by novel coronavirus was going to be called COVID-19, meaning the coronavirus disease that emerged in 2019. It said that it had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, animal, individual or group of people, and which was also easily pronounceable and related to the disease.
“Having a name matters, to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising,” Ghebreyesus said, clearly referring to controversial and racially-charged terms used by some news outlets and politicians.
He added that the main goal of a two-day research and innovation forum on the novel coronavirus that opened in Geneva on Tuesday would be “an agreed roadmap on what questions we need to ask, and how we will go about answering those questions.”
The forum gathered together more than 400 leading scientists and public health experts and officials from around the world, including many who attended remotely, online or by phone.
In his opening remarks, Ghebreyesus said delegates were not there to talk about politics or money, but science. He warned that the outbreak is testing the world.
“It’s a test of political solidarity – whether the world can come together to fight a common enemy that does not respect borders or ideologies. It’s a test of financial solidarity – whether the world will invest now in fighting this outbreak, or pay more later to deal with its consequences. And it’s a test of scientific solidarity – will the world come together to find shared answers to shared problems?” he said.
He expressed the opinion that there is still much that is not known about the virus, such as its transmission dynamics, the period of infectiousness, how samples can be used for diagnosis and the monitoring of treatment, the best way to manage cases of severe disease, and ethical issues to be aware of in research.
“To defeat this outbreak, we need answers to all those questions, and more,” he told delegates.
“The bottom line is solidarity, solidarity, solidarity,” he continued, adding that the mantra is especially relevant in the realm of the sharing of samples and sequences.
The WHO chief thanked Chinese experts and officials who attended the forum online.
“We want you to know that we stand with you in solidarity, and we wish you courage, patience, success, and good health in these extremely trying circumstances,” he said.
On Tuesday, Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, warned people not to attach unnecessary stigma to the outbreak. “This is an unfortunate event,” he said.
In a briefing on Monday, he praised China’s capacities and capabilities in fighting the outbreak and repeated what Ghebreyesus had said, that if the disease reaches a health system that is not as capable as China’s, the situation could become much worse.

(Latest Update February 13, 2020

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