COVID-19, the dreaded coronavirus that is spreading across the globe and is yet to have a curable medicine, can be contained tracking the pattern of the progression of the disease, the World Health Organisation(WHO) said.
In a media briefing on March 2, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom said while China reported 206 cases of COVID-19 to WHO in a day, the lowest since January 22, outside China a total of 8,739 cases have been reported to WHO from 61 countries, with 127 deaths. This is almost nine times higher than new coronavirus cases inside China over the last 24 hours. "The Republic of Korea has now reported more than 4,200 cases and 22 deaths, meaning it has more than half of all cases outside China. "The epidemics in the Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan are our greatest concern," he said.
"Containment of COVID-19 is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries. Our message to all countries is - this is not a one-way street. We can push this virus back. Your actions now will determine the course of the outbreak in your country. There's no choice but to act now," he added.
The cases in the Republic of Korea appear to be coming mostly from suspected cases from five known clusters, rather than the community. It indicates that surveillance measures are working and Korea's epidemic can still be contained. "If this was an influenza epidemic, the virus could have had widespread community transmission across the globe by now, and efforts to slow it down or contain it would not have been feasible," he said.
Why is WHO still hesitant to declare this as a pandemic? DG Adhanom said of the 88,913 cases reported globally so far, 90 per cent are in China, mostly in one province. Of the 8739 cases reported outside China, 81 per cent are from four countries. Of the other 57 affected countries, 38 have reported 10 cases or less, 19 have reported only one case, and a good number of countries have already contained the virus and have not reported over the last two weeks. More than 130 countries have not detected any cases yet and some just received their first cases yesterday. Some have clusters of cases, with transmission between family members and other close contacts. Some have rapidly expanding epidemics, with signs of community transmission. And some have declining epidemics, and have not reported a case for more than two weeks. Some countries have more than one of these scenarios at the same time. For example, China had community transmission in Wuhan, but relatively small numbers of cases in other provinces. Other countries have a similar pattern.
He said WHO will continue to provide evidence-based guidance to help countries and individuals assess and manage their risk, and make decisions, as the scenario differs in different countries. The WHO is advising countries on actions they can take for each of the "three Cs" scenarios - first case, first cluster, first evidence of community transmission", to effectively contain the epidemic. The basic actions in each scenario are the same, but the emphasis changes depending on which scenario a country is in.
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