Containing the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic should still be everyone’s “top priority”, UN health agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.
In total, 61 countries outside China have reported 8,739 cases of infection with 127 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General said.
Of nearly 90,000 cases globally so far, with around 3,000 fatalities, 90 per cent are in China - mostly in the province of Hubei - and of the 8,739 cases reported outside China, 81 per cent are from just four countries.
“The epidemic in the Republic of Korea, Italy and Iran and Japan are our greatest concern”, he said, before noting that a team of health professionals had arrived in Iran to deliver medical supplies and support the Government’s response to the disease.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Tedros noted that in the last 24 hours, there have been almost nine times more infections identified outside China than inside the country, where the virus emerged in December.
China seeing a fall in cases
The number of cases in China continues to decline, he added, with 206 cases detected on Sunday - the lowest since 22 January – and only eight cases identified outside Hubei province, the virus’s epicentre.
Meanwhile, authorities in the Republic of Korea reported 4,200 cases and 22 deaths - meaning that it has more than half of all cases outside China - but these infections appear to be coming from five known clusters rather than from wider community transmission.
South Korea contact tracing is working
“Surveillance measures are working, and Korea’s epidemic can still be contained”, Tedros insisted. “Knowing and understanding your epidemic is the first step to defeating it.”
“If this was an influenza epidemic, we would have expected a widespread community transmission across the globe by now - and efforts to contain it would not be feasible”, he explained.
“But containment of COVID-19 is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries. With early aggressive measures countries can stop transmission and save lives.”