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WHO: Coronavirus has pandemic potential

who coronavirus has pandemic potential

The World Health Organization speaks of a “very delicate situation”: the coronavirus continues to spread unchecked, meanwhile there are cases on all continents. The WHO calls on all countries to take action.

“This virus has the potential for a pandemic,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In Geneva he spoke of a “very delicate situation” and a “crucial point”: According to Tedros, the spread of the virus could develop in any direction. It depends on what you are doing now. No country should assume that there are no cases, Tedros said: “This would literally be a fatal mistake.”

To date, national health authorities worldwide have reported more than 82,500 cases of infection, including around 78,500 in the People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau). The disease originated in China at the end of 2019, probably from a market in the city of Wuhan. Since this week, the number of cases outside of China has increased more sharply than in the People’s Republic itself: South Korea (around 1,750 infected) is most affected, followed by Italy (around 530) and Iran (around 250). To date, a good 2,800 of all these patients have died, and more than 33,200 have recovered.

Spread in Iran

The WHO is currently particularly concerned about the outbreak in Iran, which focuses on the city of Qom. A delegation from the World Health Organization is due to travel to the Islamic Republic on Saturday to gather information. In Iran, the number of cases almost doubled within a day, official sources speak of 245 infected and 26 dead. There, a government member has now also tested positive for the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus: Masoumeh Ebtekar, the vice president for women’s and family affairs, was diagnosed with a mild infection with the respiratory disease.

Masoumeh Ebtekar is the first Iranian cabinet member to develop COVID-19

The government in Tehran is calling on its citizens to cancel trips that are not absolutely necessary. A ban on cultural events, conferences and cinema screenings has been extended by one week. Friday prayers were also canceled, according to Iranian state television. Until further notice, Chinese citizens are not allowed to enter Iran.

Pragmatism in Europe

In Europe, Corona is now leading to an unexpected rapprochement: Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte received French President Emmanuel Macron in Naples to discuss how to deal with the virus. The meeting is the first government consultation since 2017 – the relationship between neighboring EU countries has recently cooled noticeably in the dispute over the handling of refugees.

In France, a second patient had died of the coronavirus on Wednesday night; Italy is by far the largest focus of disease in Europe. Despite the crisis, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio campaigned for foreign tourists: “Our children go to school. When our children go to school, tourists and business people can come,” said Di Maio.

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To date, the coronavirus has occurred in approximately every second EU member state. Spain has now reported 17 cases of infection, 15 of which have occurred since the beginning of the week. A hotel with around 700 guests has been cordoned off on the island of Tenerife for days because vacationers have tested positive for the virus. Some of the more than 100 German guests asked the federal government in an online petition to bring them home. According to information from the Spanish news agency EFE, 130 international guests are now to be flown out.

Germany is taking action

After a wave of new infections, the German government has set up a crisis team in which the ministries for health and home affairs play a leading role. 20 new infections in five federal states have been known since Thursday evening. Bavaria has been free of coronavirus since Thursday: The last of the 14 patients who contracted an automotive supplier in January was discharged from the hospital. 

The situation in North Rhine-Westphalia is most tense: A couple from the Heinsberg district, who are now being treated in the hospital, were at a carnival party just two weeks ago – apparently symptom-free but contagious. Other cases are due to contact with the two spouses. Out of caution, hundreds of guests of the celebration and their partners, children and roommates were put under domestic isolation. This also applies to children from the kindergarten where the sick woman works. Schools and kindergartens in the district remain closed, sporting events have been canceled.

The government put new measures in place to better track the virus: travelers who arrive by plane, train or bus from the countries most affected will have to write down information on exit cards in the future. Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn appealed to the elderly to be vaccinated against the flu, which is also rampant at this time of year – in order to avoid life-threatening double illnesses. According to Spahn, Germany is transferring an additional 50 million euros to WHO for the fight against the virus.

© The Eastern Herald

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