A couple wear face masks in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican on February 27, 2020. (Photo: AP)
Brussels (People’s Daily) – Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus said, “This virus does not respect borders,” on Thursday and added, “every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster."
Working from the latest COVID-19 data, during a news conference in Geneva, Ghebreyesus said the number of new cases in China had been outstripped by those outside of the country for a second consecutive day. “It’s what’s happening in the rest of the world that’s now our greatest concern,” he cautioned.
Within the past 24 hours, seven countries have reported cases for the first time and include Brazil, Georgia, Greece, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, and Romania, Ghebreyesus noted.
Ghebreyesus urged countries during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak to "move swiftly,” and later said, if you act aggressively now, you can contain this virus, you can prevent people getting sick, you can save lives."
"We’re at a decisive point," Ghebreyesus emphasized and said, "this virus is not influenza. With the right measures, it can be contained. This is not a time for fear, this is a time for taking action now to prevent infections and save lives. Fear and panic doesn’t help."
Italy has emerged as the outbreak’s European epicenter. Italian officials recently announced the virus death toll had risen to 14, with 528 others infected, an increase of over 200 within a 48-hour period.
The virus has spread to other countries by carriers travelling to northern Italy. Spain, Germany, Denmark, and the United Kingdom reported Thursday that more people tested positive for the virus after visiting the region, adding to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Austria, Croatia, Romania, Greece, Switzerland, and North Macedonia. Europe is bracing for an impending coronavirus epidemic.
The mounting public health crisis throughout the continent has forced witnessed public event cancellations in countries stretching from Switzerland to Greece, and include sporting events, carnivals, and trade conventions amid further stock market decline and European travel disruptions.
As coronavirus cases have increased in Europe recently, the European Commission urged member states to review their pandemic procedure plans and inform Brussels of their healthcare capabilities, including diagnostic and laboratory testing during a virus epidemic.
"In the EU we are still in the containment phase, but given how quickly the situation can change, our public health system must be ready to deal with an increased number of coronavirus infections," said EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides.