WHO: Time Is running out to stop spread of coronavirus


WHO: Time Is running out to stop spread of coronavirus
A resident collects vegetables purchased through group orders at the entrance of a residential compound in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer CHINA OUT.

The World Health Organization said time is running out to stop the spread of coronavirus outbreak as the number of cases outside of China grows.

“We are still in a phase where containment is possible,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned Friday, but “our window of opportunity is narrowing.”

China reported Saturday more than 76,200 cases of the coronavirus and 2,245 people who have died. Outside China, more than 1,200 others have been infected with the virus and more than a dozen have died.

Tedros said that while the number of cases outside of China remained “relatively small,” he expressed concern about the rise in cases around the world with no clear link to China.

Lebanon’s Minister of Health, Hamad Hasan and Iman Shankiti, WHO representative in Lebanon, attend a news conference, after the…

Lebanon’s health minister, Hamad Hassan, and Iman Shankiti, WHO representative in Lebanon, attend a news conference after the country’s first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed, in Beirut, Feb. 21, 2020.

South Korea reported Saturday a six-fold jump in the number of cases in just four days. Officials said 346 have been infected with the virus, most of them linked to a church and hospital in the city of Daegu. South Korea is now the hardest-hit country outside China.

“I hope South Korea will do everything to contain this outbreak at this early stage,”
Tedros said Friday.

The WHO head also expressed concern over new cases of the virus in Iran, as well as an Iranian traveler who carried the virus to Lebanon, and another traveler who spread the virus from Iran to Canada.

Lebanon confirmed its first coronavirus case Friday — a 45-year-old woman who had arrived from Iran and was being quarantined in a hospital.

“We confirmed the first case today,” Lebanon Health Minister Hamad Hassan told a news conference, adding that two other suspected cases are being investigated. The woman arrived Thursday on a flight from the city of Qom, Iran.

Meanwhile, Iranian health authorities Friday reported two more deaths from the coronavirus.

The spokesman of Iran’s health ministry, Kianoush Jahanpour, said the newly detected cases are all linked with Qom, where the first two elderly patients died Wednesday. So far, 18 cases have been confirmed in Iran, including the four who died.

Medical staff check passengers arriving from Iran in the airport in Najaf, Iraq, Feb. 21, 2020. Iraqi authorities are taking precautions after the discovery in Iran of the new virus that emerged in China.

Another official with Iran’s health ministry, Minoo Mohraz, said the virus “possibly came from Chinese workers who work in Qom and traveled to China.” A Chinese company has been building a solar power plant in Qom.

Qom is a popular religious destination and a center of learning and religious studies for Shiite Muslims from inside Iran, as well as Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.

In neighboring Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said officials have started to screen travelers arriving from Iran at border gates and are refusing entry to anyone who has traveled to Qom in the past 14 days or who has signs of illness.

Previously, there have been few virus cases in the Middle East. Nine cases have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, and one case in Egypt.

Workers wearing protective gear help clean each other’s suits after disinfecting as a precaution against the coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 21, 2020.

The virus also spread further Friday in Italy where authorities said 14 people tested positive for the virus in the northern region of Lombardy, bringing the number of cases in the country to 17. Officials have ordered the closure of schools, restaurants and businesses in the region.

In China, the country’s National Health Commission reported Saturday that as of February 21, more than 618,000 Chinese have been “identified as having had close contact with infected patients.”

That figure has more than tripled this month, from 189,583 on February 2. The organization lists 113,564 individuals as “under medical observation.”

Also Friday, two Australians and an Israeli evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the virus after returning to their home countries. Israel’s Health Ministry said this is the first case to be reported inside Israel.

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