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Confirmed cases and death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak in China has continued to rise astronomical as the country recorded its highest number of deaths from the disease on Wednesday.

The number of newly infected people continues to rise in Wuhan despite the quarantine and severe population control measures put in place by the government to control the spread of the disease.

24,363 cases of the disease were confirmed in China on Wednesday, as well as and 490 deaths.

The deadly disease originated from Wuhan, Hubei province in China, and spread throughout the country.

The Wuhan coronavirus has spread to 25 countries since the first cases were detected in central China in December.

The World Health Organisation, in a press briefing on the status of the disease on Wednesday, said all hands need to be on deck to curb the spread of disease.

It said while scientists are still struggling to find a cure, all countries, especially developed ones, need to join hands in stopping the spread of the disease.

WHO, in the last week of January, declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. The UN agency also advised countries to improve on their health security so as to quickly capture any imported case of the disease before it enters into the country.

Disease status

The Director-General, WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said as of 6 a.m. Geneva time on Wednesday, there were 24,363 confirmed 2019nCoV cases in China, and 490 deaths.

He said, “in the last 24 hours we had the most cases in a single day since the outbreak started”

Meanwhile, outside China, confirmed cases are also on the rise and two deaths – one from the Philippines and Hong-Kong – have been recorded.

Among those infected with the disease, 31 cases are of people with no travel history to China, but all are associated with close contacts of a confirmed case or of someone from Wuhan.

Mr Ghebreyesus said so far, 99 of the 2019nCoV cases are in China, and 80 per cent of cases in China are from Hubei province.

“The relatively small number of cases outside China gives us a window of opportunity to prevent this outbreak from becoming a broader global crisis”

“Last night, I said that some high-income countries are well behind in sharing vital case data with WHO. I’m pleased to report that since then, the US has reported its cases and Japan has said it will expedite its reporting, although some other countries are still lagging behind,” he said.

Preparation

While many countries are beginning to take precautionary measures and strengthening their health surveillance system, some health experts have raised concerns about the ability of most ‘low and middle’ income countries to combat the disease.

These countries – mainly in Africa and Asia – Nigeria inclusive – have weak health care systems and referral services, making them vulnerable in disease management.

Early detection, diagnosis and treatment of a disease with complexity such coronavirus is believed might be difficult to manage in these countries.

While no confirmed case of the disease is yet to be reported in Africa, 13 top priority countries – Nigeria inclusive – have been identified.

Mr Ghebreyesus said “our greatest concern is about the potential for spread in countries with weaker health systems, and who lack the capacity to detect or diagnose the 2019nCoV virus. We are only as strong as the weakest link.”

He said the UN agency has released a total of $9 million ‘from our own Contingency Fund for Emergencies.’

WHO is sending half a million masks; 350,000 pairs of gloves; 40,000 respirators; and almost 18,000 isolation gowns from its warehouses in Dubai and Accra to 24 countries, and more countries will be added.

“We’re sending 250,000 tests to more than 70 reference laboratories globally to facilitate faster testing. But we need to do more.”

Plea for funding

WHO said it has launched a Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to support countries to prevent, detect and diagnose onward transmission.

Mr Ghebreyesus said the agency is requesting $675 million to fund the plan for the next three months.

“$675 million is a lot of money, but it is much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now. $60 million of that is to fund WHO’s operations – the rest is for the countries that are especially at risk.

“Once again, we cannot defeat this outbreak without solidarity – political solidarity, technical solidarity and financial solidarity. We understand that people are worried and concerned – and rightly so.

“But this is not a time for fear – it’s a time for rational, evidence-based action and investment, while we still have a window of opportunity to bring this outbreak under control,” he said.

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