WHO lauds China’s efforts to tackle covid-19, says global community unprepared to face threat

Praising China for being the first line of defence, the WHO expert said other countries should consider similar action to be a second line of defense to prevent spread to low income countries with lower ability to fight it
Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organisation (WHO) attends a news conference of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Covid-19 about its investigation of the coronavirus outbreak in Beijing, China.(REUTERS)
Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organisation (WHO) attends a news conference of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Covid-19 about its investigation of the coronavirus outbreak in Beijing, China.(REUTERS)
Updated on Feb 24, 2020 09:49 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Beijing | BySutirtho Patranobis

China’s bold actions in the coronavirus epidemic epicentre of Hubei and Wuhan have probably prevented hundreds of thousands of cases, Bruce Aylward, leader of the WHO delegation here said on Monday, adding, that the global community was not ready with either the mindset or material to act in the same way.

Aylward’s statement at a press conference in Beijing comes in the backdrop of an increasing number of covid-19 cases and deaths in Italy, South Korea and Iran amid the fear that the epidemic could escalate into a pandemic.

First infections were also reported from Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Iraq and Oman on Monday.

The virus is new but it is capable of causing great impact on public health, the economy, and society, Alyward said, adding it is neither SARS nor the influenza.

Explaining the global impact context, he said the fundamentals of what China did in Hubei and Guangdong in south China could be applied elsewhere.

“This is a dangerous virus and we have to work with experience we have. And this (China) country has demonstrated its measures can work,” he said.

Praising China for being the first line of defence, the WHO expert said other countries should consider similar action to be a second line of defense to prevent spread to low income countries with lower ability to fight it

The WHO expert sidestepped a question on the initial information on the outbreak in Wuhan being covered up.

“Our purpose was to find what works. Awareness is a common problem in many outbreaks…We didn’t look at that factor. There were other factors we looked at as well. The most important is speed. What worries me is have other countries learned lessons from China’s experience. There is one other point. President Xi (Jinping) himself said mistakes were made. We need to address; there is a recognition that the human cost is unacceptable. We all have to look at our systems because none of them as fast enough,” he said.

“This virus is sneaky and tricky. We needed to fight while we learned, while we improved. This is what we lacked in the early stages,” China’s national health commission’s (NHC) Liang Wanning said.

Liang and Alyward were heading a 25-member joint WHO-China team that visited Wuhan, Beijing, Sichuan and Guangdong over the past week and submitted a 45-page report to the government on their findings on the outbreak.

Liang said the rapid rise in covid-19 cases had been halted but the situation was still grim.

“The situation in Wuhan is still severe. We are in a critical moment whether we can win this war. Severe and critical cases/confirmed cases, if they continue to drop, that would be good news,” Liang said.

Outside Hubei, mainland China reported 11 new cases, the lowest since the NHC started to publish nationwide daily figures on January 20.

The coronavirus has infected nearly 77,000 people and killed more than 2,500 in China, most of them in Hubei.

Meanwhile, China on Monday – in a rare decision --- officially delayed the Two Sessions, the country’s annual Parliament and biggest political event, because of the outbreak and further restricted the trading and consumption of wild animal meat.

New dates for the Parliament session will be announced later.

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