The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has appealed to the international community for $675 million to boost international measures to counter the new coronavirus epidemic, as deaths from the outbreak neared 500.
Speaking in Geneva on Feb. 5, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that latest data indicated 24,363 confirmed infections in China and 490 deaths from the respiratory disease (2019-nCoV), which was declared on 31 December.
‘Window of opportunity’ to stop transmission
The “relatively small number” of infections outside China – which is home to 99 per cent of cases, with 80 per cent of these in Hubei province alone – has presented a “window of opportunity” to prevent the outbreak from developing into a global crisis, the WHO Director-General insisted.
Highlighting that the UN health agency’s major concern is that the virus could reach countries without the capacity to detect infections, Mr. Tedros urged the international community to show solidarity – political, technical and financial – to ensure that it does not spread further.
“My biggest worry is that there are countries today who do not have the systems in place to detect people who have contracted the virus, even if it were to emerge”, he said. “Urgent support is needed to bolster weak health systems to detect, diagnose and care for people with the virus, to prevent further human to human transmission and protect health workers.”
‘Only as strong as our weakest link’
“We are only as strong as our weakest link”, he said, adding that the WHO has released $9 million from its emergency financial reserves to help combat the epidemic.
In addition, WHO has distributed some 500,000 facemasks, along with 350,000 medical gloves, 40,000 respiratory kits and around 18,000 isolation gowns to 24 countries.
The agency has also sent some 250,000 test samples to more than 70 laboratories around the world to speed up virus detection. “But we need to do more”, he said, before outlining how the $675 million strategic preparedness and response appeal would support countries to protect their populations with better prevention measures and speedier diagnosis.
“We understand that people are worried and concerned, and rightly so,” he said. “But this is not a time for fear this is not a time for panic. It’s is a time for rational, evidence-based action and investment while we still have a window of opportunity to bring this outbreak under control.”
Source: UN News