Spotlight: WHO reports local transmission in more nations, warning COVID-19 unlikely to disappear in summer

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-07 16:51:33|Editor: huaxia

Passengers wearing face masks are seen at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, Jan. 29, 2020. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

"We do not know yet what the activity or behavior of the virus will be in different climatic conditions," said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program.

"We have to assume the virus will continue to have the capacity to spread."

BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) -- While five more countries have seen local transmission of COVID-19 as of Friday, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert called for decisive actions to fight the disease, saying there is no evidence suggesting COVID-19 will disappear in summer.


MORE FIRST CONFIRMED CASES

With newly reported local transmission in the Philippines, New Zealand, Ireland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, the total number of countries and regions where local transmission emerged has increased to 41 in addition to China, according to the WHO's latest daily situation report.

In the past 24 hours, about eight countries reported their first confirmed cases, including Bhutan, Serbia, Peru, Colombia, and Costa Rica.

Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez(C) speaks at a press conference after confirmation of the first novel coronavirus case in the country, Bogota, Colombia, March 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Jhon Paz)

In Slovakia, a 52-year-old man without travel history became the first confirmed case of COVID-19. He may have been infected by his son in Venice who shows no symptoms, according to Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini.

In sub-Saharan Africa, as Cameroon and Togo reported their first confirmed cases on Friday, countries affected by the virus have risen to five in the region, including Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa.

Up to 2,873 new cases have been reported across the globe in the past 24 hours, bringing the total count to 98,192 as of Friday, according to the WHO. Among them 17,481 cases have been confirmed in 88 countries and regions outside China, up by 2,727, with 335 deaths.


SOME OF THE WORST-HIT

Among some of the worst-hit countries, South Korea reported 6,767 cases with 44 deaths by the end of Friday. The number of infections in Daegu, about 300 km southeast of Seoul, and its surrounding North Gyeongsang province accounted for about 90 percent of the total.

People disinfect a station in Daegu, South Korea, Feb. 29, 2020. (NEWSIS/Handout via Xinhua)

The number of confirmed cases in Japan increased to 1,074 as of Friday, with 696 linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was previously quarantined near Tokyo.

Iran's health authorities said Friday the outbreak in the country has so far affected 4,747 people with 124 deaths. A total of 1,413 cases were reported in the capital Tehran.

The country has already shut down schools until April, while authority has advised people to avoid inter-city trips. Some provinces such as Gila and Mazandaran have decided to screen arrivals.

The WHO said Friday that it does not endorse international flight restrictions on Iran amid the outbreak.

Meanwhile, a 30-day state of emergency took effect in Palestine, where nine new cases were reported, bringing the total to 16 only one day after the first seven cases were detected.


EUROPE, U.S. RESPONDING WITH MORE MEASURES, FUNDING

Italy, Europe's hardest-hit country, has confirmed 3,916 cases with 197 deaths by Friday. Organizers of the Formula E electric car racing championship announced that the Rome E-Prix scheduled for April 4 will be postponed.

European governments have been responding with more measures as the epidemic continues to worsen in the region.

Health ministers of the 27 European Union member states met in Brussels on Friday, agreeing to develop a coordinated approach for the prevention and protection of people at risk, and establish coherent containment measures.

Paramedics work in a tent outside the Brescia Civilians Hospital in Brescia, Italy, March 3, 2020. (Xinhua)

France, the first European country to have detected COVID-19 cases, reported a total of 613 cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said all nurseries and schools in the two most affected regions -- l'Oise in north and Haut-Rhin near German borders -- will shut down for two weeks from Monday, while all gatherings will be limited "except those essential to social and democratic life."

Neighboring France, Belgium has seen cases more than doubled to 109 in the past 24 hours, while Germany reported 639 cases. In Spain, the cases totaled 374 with five deaths.

Britain has confirmed a total of 163 cases with one death by Friday. Local news reported the second death, a man in his late 80s.

Earlier in the day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new funding package of 46 million pounds (around 60 million U.S. dollars) for urgent work to find a vaccine and develop a rapid test for the disease.

Several major U.S. media outlets reported that the U.S. caseload has surpassed 300 by Friday with at least 15 deaths. Apart from one man who died in California, most of the other COVID-19 deaths occurred in Washington state, home to the first U.S. confirmed case.

A woman with face mask walks on Times Square in Manhattan of New York, the United States, March 4, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

In addition, 21 people on the Grand Princess cruise ship have tested positive for COVID-19, including 19 crew members and two passengers, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said.

The cruise ship, linked to the first coronavirus death in California, was banned from docking at San Francisco. There are more than 3,000 people aboard the ship, which belongs to the same company that owned the Diamond Princess, according to local media reports.

Also on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the 8.3-billion-dollar emergency funding package the Congress approved earlier this week, to boost funding for the testing of the virus, support the development of vaccines, as well as lower costs for medical treatments.


WHO URGES NO "BLAME CULTURE"

There is no evidence right now suggesting COVID-19 will disappear in summer, Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, told a daily briefing in Geneva on Friday.

Dr. Michael Ryan(L), executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Program attends a daily briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Chen Junxia)

"We do not know yet what the activity or behavior of the virus will be in different climatic conditions," Ryan said. "We have to assume the virus will continue to have the capacity to spread."

The senior expert urged countries to fight the new virus decisively at current stage, and called on countries and societies to avoid "blame culture" and to do all the things needed to save lives.

Ryan stressed that disease can emerge anywhere on the planet -- for instance, Ebola very often emerged in Africa, while the last pandemic influenza H1N1 emerged in North America.

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