BEIJING, China, January 29, 2020 (ENS) – Director-General of the World Health Organization, WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, met Tuesday with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing. They shared the latest information on the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) outbreak and reiterated their commitment to bring the deadly virus under control.
The WHO mission comes as the number of people confirmed with the respiratory virus rose to over 4,500 globally on January 28, the greatest number being in China.
China today reports 5,974 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus; to date, 132 people in China have died of the disease.
Dr. Tedros was joined in Beijing by WHO Regional Director Dr. Takeshi Kasai and Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme Dr. Mike Ryan, and also met State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and Minister of Health Ma Xiaowei.
The National Health Commission presented China’s strong public health capacities and resources to respond and manage respiratory disease outbreaks.
The discussions focused on continued collaboration on containment measures in Wuhan, public health measures in other cities and provinces, conducting further studies on the severity and transmissibility of the virus, continuing to share data, and for China to share biological material with WHO.
These measures will advance scientific understanding of the virus and contribute to the development of medical countermeasures such as vaccines and treatments.
The two sides agreed that WHO will send international experts to visit China as soon as possible to work with Chinese counterparts on increasing understanding of the outbreak to guide global response efforts.
“Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s highest priority,” said Dr. Tedros. “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus.”
“WHO is working closely with the government on measures to understand the virus and limit transmission,” he said. “WHO will keep working side-by-side with China and all other countries to protect health and keep people safe.”
The WHO delegation highly appreciated the actions China has implemented in response to the outbreak, its speed in identifying the virus and openness to sharing information with WHO and other countries.
Medical workers from several Chinese cities are being flown to Wuhan City, where the virus first surfaced, to combat the disease there.
A medical team comprised of 148 members in Shanghai and another medical team comprised of 138 members from 16 hospitals in Tianjin left for Wuhan on Tuesday to aid the coronavirus control efforts there.
Much remains to be understood about 2019-nCoV. The source of the outbreak and the extent to which it has spread in China are not yet known.
While the current understanding of the disease remains limited, most cases reported to date have been milder, with around 20 percent of those infected experiencing severe illness.
Both WHO and China noted that the number of cases being reported, including those outside China, is deeply concerning. Better understanding of the transmissibility and severity of the virus is urgently required to guide other countries on appropriate response measures.
WHO is continually monitoring developments and the Director-General can reconvene the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee on very short notice as needed. Committee members are on stand-by and are informed regularly of developments.
Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by 2019-nCov in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread.
Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Chinese officials report that sustained person-to-person spread in the community is occurring in China, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the United States, five people have tested positive for the virus, a number that has been stable since Monday, with people in 26 states still under examination for the virus, which has a 10 to 14 day incubation period.