Countries have a chance of stopping the global spread of the new coronavirus, the chief of the World Health Organization said Tuesday, urging them to work together against the outbreak.
The WHO is holding a conference in Geneva on combatting the virus that Beijing is struggling to contain and which has killed more than 1,000, infected more than 42,000 and reached about 25 countries.
“If we invest now… we have a realistic chance of stopping this outbreak,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
He urged countries to share data in order to further research the disease.
“We have to use the current window of opportunity to hit hard and stand in unison to fight this virus in every corner. If we don’t we could have far more cases and far higher costs on our hands,” Tedros said.
“Viruses can have more powerful consequences than any terrorist action,” he added.
Although 99 percent of cases are in China, where it remains “very much an emergency,” it also “holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world,” Tedros said at the conference, where the virus was officially named “COVID-19”.
WHO sent an advance team to China this week for an international mission to examine the epidemic.
Chinese authorities have locked down millions of people in a number of cities, but another 108 deaths were reported on Tuesday — the first triple-digit daily rise since the virus emerged in late December.
Several governments have banned arrivals from China and major airlines suspended flights in a bid to keep the disease away from their shores.
Although the death toll has reached 1,016, the mortality rate remains relatively low at 2.4 percent.
But the case of a British man who passed on the virus to at least 11 other people — without having been in China — has raised fears of a new phase of contagion abroad.
The 53-year-old said Tuesday he had fully recovered, but remained in isolation in a central London hospital.
– ‘Bigger fire’ –
Most cases overseas have involved people who had been in Wuhan, the quarantined central Chinese city where the virus emerged late last year, or people infected by others who had been at the epicentre.