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Global virus epidemic at 'decisive point' — WHO chief

By AFP - Feb 28,2020 - Last updated at Feb 28,2020

GENEVA — The new coronavirus epidemic is at a "decisive point" globally, the World Health Organisation said Thursday, warning it could "get out of control" if affected countries did not move swiftly to contain it.

Some 2,760 people have died around the world and more than 80,000 have been infected in the outbreak, which was first detected in China in December and has spread to dozens of other countries.

"We're at a decisive point," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

Tedros said the number of new cases in China had been outstripped by new cases outside the country for a second day running.

“It’s what’s happening in the rest of the world that’s now our greatest concern,” he said.

Tedros told affected countries: “If you act aggressively now, you can contain this virus, you can prevent people getting sick, you can save lives.”

But he emphasised that all countries should ensure that their health systems were prepared for an outbreak.

Tedros said all health ministers should be asking themselves a series of questions such as whether they had enough ventilators, whether they were ready to carry out tests and whether they could fight misinformation.

“We are actually in a very delicate situation in which the outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it... It can be contained, but if we don’t do the right thing it can get out of control,” Tedros said.

“When you do containment measures like China is doing, you can actually see a decline in the cases and ultimately it can be contained,” he added.

Tedros also said 90 per cent of cases had a fever and 70 per cent had a dry cough and that a runny nose was “not usually” one of the symptoms.

He reiterated concern about the sudden surge in cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea.

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