With the spread of the new coronavirus not showing any signs of slowing down, the World Health Organisation said about $675 million would be needed to stop further spread of the outbreak globally.
This call was made on Wednesday at a press conference in Geneva where the WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, briefed the world on the current status of the disease.
As at the time of the briefing, 25 countries have reported confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, including China, where 24,363 people had contracted the virus, or over 99 per cent of all cases.
In all other countries, 191 cases have contracted the virus. Countries in Africa have, however, not reported any confirmed cases though there have been scares and suspected cases.
Mr Ghebreyesus said the fund is needed to protect vulnerable countries with weaker health systems from the outbreak.
He said the international community has launched a $675 million preparedness and response plan covering the months of February through to April 2020.
This call was issued at about the same time when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made a commitment of $100 million to support the response to the disease.
WHO assessment of the current status of the disease indicates that the outbreak poses a very high risk in China, and high risk regionally and globally.
The risk assessment was based on factors including the likelihood of further spread, the potential impact on human health, and the varying levels of effectiveness in national preparedness and response measures.
It also concluded that the outbreak begs for accelerated action, to address the risks and deaths the disease poses to the world.
The Director-General said his biggest worry is that there are countries who do not have the systems in place to detect people who have contracted with the virus, even if it were to emerge.
“Urgent support is needed to bolster weak health systems to detect, diagnose and care for people with the virus, to prevent further human to human transmission and protect health workers,” he added.
Due to the continued spread of the disease, the UN health agency in late January declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency.
This, it said, became necessary due to the number of confirmed cases outside China where the disease had originated.
The disease, which was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei province in China, had spread all over the country. All the provinces in the country are on lockdown and the numbers of confirmed cases and death toll from the disease has continued to increase.
Also, two deaths from the disease have been recorded from Hong-Kong and the Philippines.
The disease was first thought to be transmitted from animals to humans, but more recent evidence has shown that the disease can be transmitted from person to person.
This has made many countries heighten their surveillance across the borders and port entries. Also, many countries have resulted in quarantining travellers coming from countries with confirmed cases while the U.S. has closed its borders to foreigners from China.
Efforts in vaccine
While scientists and health officials are working round the clock to find a cure and ways to combat the disease, WHO, has cautioned that countries should not make policies that will affect international travels or trade.
It said that although there has been a continuous spread, the disease is yet to attain a pandemic status.
WHO said it is embarking on a Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP) for the new coronavirus.
It said this lays out activities and resources needed by international health organizations globally, including WHO, to implement priority public health measures in support of countries to prepare and respond to nCoV-2019 for a period February-April 2020.
It added that the objectives of the plan are to limit human-to-human transmission of the virus, particularly in countries most vulnerable if they were to face an outbreak; identify, isolate and care for patients early; communicate critical risk and event information; minimise social and economic impact; reduce virus spread from animal sources; and address crucial unknowns.
Since the disease is a novel outbreak, there are still lots of grey areas that scientists need to understand in order to effectively crush the menace of the disease, it explained.
WHO’s head of Health Emergencies Programme, Mike Ryan, said the plan will focus on rapidly establishing international coordination and operational support. It will also work on accelerating priority research and innovation.
“The effectiveness of outbreak response depends on the preparedness measures put in place before outbreaks strike.
“That is why we are seeking resources to safeguard the most vulnerable countries to protect people from the new coronavirus before it arrives on the doorstep,” he explained.