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As new cases of the ongoing Covid-19 (coronavirus) are being reported in more countries, health experts have called on countries to get prepared for a possible coronavirus pandemic situation.

The possibility of the disease attaining a pandemic status is considered due to the fast spreading nature of the disease.

Covid-19 virus was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China, but has since spread around the country and to over 28 countries.

A pandemic is an endemic disease which spread across a large region; for instance- multiple continents, or worldwide. A disease becomes pandemic when it spreads easily from person to person.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday said it is too early to say the outbreak is pandemic. Though agreeing it has the tendency of becoming such, the UN health agency has advised countries to strengthen their preparedness, should it get to that point.

China

As of 6am Geneva time on Monday, China reported a total of 77,362 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, including 2618 deaths.

WHO said within 24 hours, China has reported 416 new confirmed cases, and 150 deaths.

While new cases are still being confirmed in some countries across the world, China said new confirmed cases are beginning to dwindle as cases dropped below five or to zero in all provinces other than Hubei.

Also, about 22888 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery. 5299 people discharged in Hubei, 8171 people in Wuhan.

The number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan province had risen to 105 in total, according to the commission.

A WHO team, which had travelled to China to evaluate the situation found that the epidemic peaked and plateaued between January 23 and February 2, and has been declining steadily since then.

The team also found that there has been no significant change in the DNA of the virus.

Outside China

Meanwhile, outside China, there are now 2074 cases in 28 countries, and 23 deaths, WHO said.

The reports of cases in Italy, South Korea, Iran have begun to raise new questions on the status of the disease and if WHO is right it with pronouncement of the disease.

WHO in January had pronounced the disease a public health emergency of international concern, however, the new trends in the outbreak seems to be questioning if the disease has not gotten to a pandemic status.

The outbreak is also beginning to have a toll on the world economy as stock markets are recording a sharp fall due to panic caused by the disease and partial shutdown of industries in China.

Although most infections are in China, the origin of the virus, the disease seems to be spreading fast and about 2,600 people have died since it was first detected in December.

Africa

Meanwhile, in all these outbreaks, Africa seems to be spared for now as only one confirmed case of the disease was reported from the continent.

However, the world is being scared of the disease being transported to Africa because African health systems would be ill-equipped to respond to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said WHO has conducted a survey with countries to assess their overall readiness for COVID-19 and found the regional readiness level was an estimated 66 per cent.

“WHO finds there are critical gaps in readiness for countries across the continent. We need, urgently, to prioritize strengthening the capacities for countries to investigate alerts, treat patients in isolation facilities and improve infection prevention and control in health facilities and in communities.”

Pandemic?

WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said during the daily briefing on the status of the disease that the “sudden increases of cases in Italy, Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning.”

Mr Ghebreyesus said there is a lot of speculation about whether these increases mean that this epidemic has now become a pandemic.

“We understand why people ask that question. WHO has already declared a public health emergency of international concern – our highest level of alarm – when there were less than 100 cases outside China, and eight cases of human-to-human transmission.

“Our decision about whether to use the word “pandemic” to describe an epidemic is based on an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes and the impact it has on the whole of society.

The WHO chief said” for the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death.

He said though the virus absolutely has pandemic potential, but “are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet”.

Mr Ghebreyesus described the current situation as a sporadic outbreak which requires for all countries, communities, families and individuals to focus on preparing.

“Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts, but it may certainly cause fear. This is not the time to focus on what word we use. That will not prevent a single infection today, or save a single life today,” he said.

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