The man responsible for declaring the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency has identified a “small window of opportunity” to stop the deadly disease from becoming a pandemic.
World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom used his latest speech at a technical briefing to call for more global solidarity to prevent the spread of the epidemic.
He accused high-income countries of being “well behind” in sharing vital data with WHO on coronavirus cases.
“Of the 176 cases reported outside China so far, WHO has received complete case report forms for only 38 per cent,” Dr Adhanom told the UN agency’s executive board on Wednesday (Australian time).
WHO’s plea for better communication and relaying of information from wealthy countries comes after Australia declared its 13th confirmed case of coronavirus on Tuesday night.
An eight-year-old boy, a Chinese national from Wuhan, became infected while travelling with a 44-year-old man and 42-year-old woman who were diagnosed with the virus in Queensland last week.
All three are from Hubei province, which is at the epicentre of the coronavirus in China.
The boy, who is stable but isolated at Gold Coast University Hospital, is the third person in Queensland to be diagnosed with coronavirus.
Dr Adhanom called for the accelerated development of vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tests as the risk of seeing the coronavirus become more widespread globally remained high.
“There is a window of opportunity … so let’s not miss this window of opportunity,” Dr Adhanom said.
“We can only defeat this coronavirus outbreak with global solidarity, and that starts with collective participation in global surveillance.”
In a desperate effort to guide the global response, WHO said it would send a team of international experts to work with Chinese counterparts to help them better understand the outbreak – but that’s not all.
“WHO is sending 531,000 masks, 350,000 pairs of gloves, 40,000 respirators and almost 18,000 isolation gowns from our warehouses in Dubai and Accra to 24 countries and we will add more countries,” Dr Adhanom said.
“We’re sending 250,000 tests to more than 70 reference laboratories globally to facilitate faster testing.”
I just briefed #EB146 members on the #2019nCov outbreak. It’s important to underline that 99% of the cases are in #China & 97% of deaths are in Hubei province. This is still first and foremost an emergency for China 🇨🇳. pic.twitter.com/wGCnsR71Qh
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) February 4, 2020
The outbreak has so far killed 427 people, with Hong Kong reporting its first coronavirus death on Tuesday. It was the second death outside mainland China.
The Hong Kong fatality was a 39-year-old man with an underlying illness who had visited Wuhan, at the centre of the outbreak.
China, meanwhile, reported a record daily jump in deaths of 64 to 425. So far, the only other death outside mainland China is a man who died in the Philippines last week after visiting Wuhan.
Total infections in mainland China rose to 20,438, and there have been nearly 200 cases elsewhere, in 24 countries and China’s special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
Thailand’s tally of infections jumped to 25, the highest outside China, while Singapore’s rose to 24, four of those from local contagion as opposed to visitors from China.