Countries must act quickly and robustly to contain the coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic, the World Health Organization said on Friday, as it raised the global risk assessment of the infection to “very high”.
The development comes as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed data showing that in the past 24 hours, China had recorded its lowest number of cases in more than a month (329), with 78,959 cases in total.
More than 36,000 people have also recovered from COVID-19 in China alone, WHO said.
Fear, rumour and stigma the greatest enemy
Speaking to the international press on Friday, UN chief António Guterres called on all governments to step up and do everything possible to contain the disease, without stigmatization, and respecting human rights, and appealed for solidarity, and full global support.
Echoing the words of Tedros, the Secretary-General emphasized the importance of preparation, rather than panic, and declared that the “greatest enemy right now is not the virus. It’s fear, rumors and stigma”.
Global spread continues
The rest of the world has continued to show an uptick in infections, however, with 4,351 cases confirmed in 49 countries and 67 deaths as of 6am in Geneva.
Tedros said that although the increase in the number of cases and affected countries in recent days was concerning, there was no evidence of the virus spreading freely in communities.
He added that 24 cases of infection had been exported from Italy to 14 countries and 97 cases had found their way from Iran to 11 countries.
“The continued increase in the number of cases and the number of affected countries over the last few days are clearly of concern,” he said. “Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at global level.”
First sub-Saharan case in Africa
In Nigeria, where the first case of infection has been confirmed and isolated, the UN agency said it had “great confidence” that the country could contain the virus.