The global coronavirus risk alert has been raised to “very high” — the highest level of alarm — as the deadly disease spread further on Friday, World Health Organization officials announced.
The virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has spread to 49 countries in a matter of weeks, officials said. Countries other than China now account for about three-quarters of new infections.
In recent days, more than 120 cases connected to new epicenters in Italy and Iran have been reported in 25 countries, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.
Right now, it would be a “big mistake” to switch from a public health strategy of containment to mitigation, where authorities accept the virus is spreading, he said.
“Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously,” the official said. “We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to ‘very high’ at a global level.”
But officials have yet to find evidence that the virus is “spreading freely in communities,” giving them hope that “we still have a chance of containing this virus,” he said.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, said that the high-risk assessment level isn’t meant to “alarm or scare people,” but to raise awareness.
“People need to take a reality check now and really understand an all-of-government, an all-of-society approach is needed,” Ryan said.
“We have been dealing with this virus for two months and I think this is a reality check for every government on the planet — wake up, get ready,” he said. “You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready.”
Upwards of 83,000 coronavirus cases have been reported across the world, and more than 2,800 people have been killed by the rampant infection — the vast majority in mainland China.
Source: New York Post