GENEVA, Switzerland, March 11, 2020 (ENS) – “Over the weekend we crossed 100,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in 100 countries,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a global media briefing about the novel coronavirus on Monday. “Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real.”
But Dr. Tedros explained that “it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled.”
“The bottom line is,” he said, “we are not at the mercy of this virus. The great advantage we have is that the decisions we all make – as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals – can influence the trajectory of this epidemic.”
Dr. Tedros reminded the reporters in the room and on phones across the world that, “With decisive, early action, we can slow down the virus and prevent infections. Among those who are infected, most will recover.”
Of the nearly 81,000 reported cases in China, more than 70 percent have recovered and been discharged, Dr. Tedros said, emphasizing that of all the cases reported globally so far, 93 percent are from just four countries: China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea.
Still, five more new countries reported COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours: Brunei Darussalam, Mongolia, Cyprus, Guernsey and Panama.
As of March 9, a total of 45 countries have informed WHO of additional health measures they implemented in relation to COVID-19 and provided the public health rationale for these measures.
WHO reiterates that measures restricting the movement of people during this outbreak should be proportionate to the public health risk, short in duration and reviewed regularly as more information about the virus, the disease epidemiology and clinical characteristics becomes available.
Globally, WHO reports 113,702 confirmed cases as of March 10, with 4,125 new cases over the past 24 hours, and 4,012 deaths, 203 of them new.
In China, where the COVID-19 outbreak originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last December, there are now 80,924 confirmed cases, with 20 new over the past 24 hours and 3,140 deaths, 17 of them new.
Outside of China as of Tuesday, there have been 32,778 confirmed cases, with 4,105 of them new, and 872 deaths, 186 of them new, in 109 countries, territories or areas, five of them new), WHO reports.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday inspected the COVID-19 outbreak epicenter in Wuhan, Hubei Province. He visited a hospital treating severely ill COVID-19 patients and a residential community. He saw patients, medics, community residents and workers, police officers, military personnel, officials and volunteers who have been fighting the novel coronavirus.
Praising the people of Wuhan, Xi said there has been a positive trend in epidemic control in China that could not have been achieved without “their sacrifice, devotion, perseverance and efforts,” reports the official news agency Xinhua.
Xi met with medical personnel in Huoshenshan Hospital, a 1,000-bed emergency facility constructed in just 11 days from January 23 to February 2 in response to the coronavirus.
Xi told the health workers that the spread of the virus has been basically curbed in the province of Hubei and the city of Wuhan, and attributed the achievement to the efforts of the whole Chinese Communist Party, the whole country and the whole society.
“But you are the biggest heroes,” Xi told the medics.
After the field inspection, Xi chaired a teleconference during which he announced, “Initial success has been achieved in stabilizing the situation and turning the tide.”
On Wednesday, Iranian officials held a webinar consultation with ministers of science and directors of technology of over 72 countries with the focus on the spread of COVID-19. The webinar was held by the ministers of science of France, China, Mexico, Italy, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates with representatives of other countries participating via video conference, the Iranian news agency IRNA reports.
Deputy Minister of Science for International Affairs Hossein Salar Amoli, and Deputy Minister of Science for Education Ali Khaki Sediq noted that across the world schools and universities are closing, some holding classes only online.
Khaki Sediq said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss how to continue to teach students during the coronavirus outbreak which has closed universities, research centers and schools to stop the virus from spreading.
To date in Iran, there have been 9,000 cases of COVID-19, of which 354 people have died and 2,959 have recovered, according to Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education. Today, 958 people in the country are still infected.
In Italy, Premier Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday the government had set aside 25 billion euros for the coronavirus emergency.
“We have earmarked an extraordinary sum of 25 billion, not to be used immediately but certainly to be able to be used to face all the difficulties of this emergency,” he told a news conference.
The new sum comes on top of an initial 7.5 billion euros to tackle immediate needs. Italy is the worst-hit country outside China with 631 deaths and over 10,000 infected.
In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in visited the disease control headquarters Wednesday to encourage health officials fighting the novel coronavirus.
President Moon visited the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, KCDC, in Cheongju, 140 kilometers south of Seoul, for the first time since the nation reported the outbreak of COVID-19 on January 20.
Moon commended the health authorities’ fast testing and treatment, pointing out that Korea’s containment efforts are receiving international recognition, his spokesman, Kang Min-seok, told reporters.
“The COVID-19 has left scars on citizens’ hearts and sapped their pride, and due to the spread of the infection, anxiety, fear and a sense of helplessness have deepened,” Moon said. “But the KCDC has detected and tested those with symptoms at the fastest pace in the world, and lowered the fatality rate with appropriate treatment when infections were confirmed. The international community is taking note of this and this is a healing for our citizens,” he said.
The president said that South Korea has been able to do without the “extreme choice” of entry bans on visitors from virus-hit countries, due to such measures as special entry procedures that involve fever checks and other health examinations at airports.
Still, the Yonhap news agency reports that Seoul’s largest-yet cluster of infections involving at least 64 people emerged Tuesday, keeping South Korea’s health officials on edge despite the fact that the number of newly discovered infections across the country slowed for the fourth consecutive day.