Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: WHO director-general

The World Health Organisation (WHO), says halting the spread of novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), both in China and globally, is the topmost priority of the health agency.

Its Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, made the assertion on Tuesday at a meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.

The 2019-nCoV was first reported in Wuhan City, China, on Dec. 31, and has since been detected in 11 other countries, including Thailand, Japan, France, Germany and the U.S.

A statement posted on WHO’s website said that Ghebreyesus and the Chinese Government shared the latest information on the novel Coronavirus 2019 outbreak and reiterated their commitments to bringing it under control.

In the statement, the WHO’s mission comes as the number of people confirmed with the virus rose to over 4,500 globally on Jan. 28, with the greatest numbers being in China.

“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.

“WHO will keep working side-by-side with China and all other countries to protect health and keep people safe,” Ghebreyesus said in the statement.

Ghebreyesus was joined by WHO Regional Director, Dr Takeshi Kasai, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, Dr Mike Ryan, and also met State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and Minister of Health Ma Xiaowei.

According to the statement, the National Health Commission presented China’s strong public health capacities and resources to respond and manage respiratory disease outbreaks.

It noted that the team’s discussions focussed 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.

Others are continuing to share data, and for China to share biological material with WHO.

“The measures would 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,” the statement said.

It stated that the WHO delegation commended the actions which China had implemented in response to the outbreak, its speed in identifying the virus and openness to sharing information with WHO and other countries.

“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 per cent 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 said in the statement.

WHO said it was continually monitoring developments and that its director-general could reconvene the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee on very short notice as needed.

It added that the committee members were on stand-by and are informed regularly of developments.