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A pedestrian wearing a protective facemask walks past a shop in Hanoi on February 4, 2020, amid concerns of the novel coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China's Wuhan late last year. amid concerns of the novel coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China's Wuhan late last year. (Photo by Nhac NGUYEN / AFP)

WHO Warns Coronavirus May Be Around For Months

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The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that the new coronavirus might be around for months. It, however, said the measures China implemented have prevented the infections of hundreds of thousands of people.

 

Bruce Aylward, leader of a joint WHO-China mission of experts, said the world can learn from the nation’s approach to restraining the virus.

 

Aylward presented the mission’s findings at a press conference. He said:

“The single biggest lesson is speed. Speed is everything and what worries me most is, has the rest of the world learned the lesson of speed? We have outbreaks in multiple countries right now, increasing at exponential growth rates.”

 

China quarantined the central city of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province for a month. It also imposed drastic restrictions on movement in other parts of the country.

 

The epidemic has killed nearly 2,600 people and infected some 77,000 people in China, with new cases and fatalities emerging in Europe, the Middle East and Asia in recent days.

 

Aylward said Beijing’s “bold approach” had “changed the course” of the epidemic, adding that the measures have “probably prevented… hundreds of thousands of cases of COVID-19 here in China.”

 

Still ‘grim’

The number of cases of infection in the country has generally declined over recent weeks. Although, questions arose about the credibility of official data as the local authorities changed their reporting method and revised figures several times.

 

A screenshot of the online dashboard that shows the spread of the Coronavirus worldwide. Photo: Center for Systems Science and Engineering

 

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Aylward stated that there have been “challenges with the statistics that have come out of China sometimes”. Nevertheless, he believed the “trends have been incredibly clear”. He then called on China to start lifting some of the restrictions, including travel curbs and tourism shutdowns.

 

He said:

“Obviously they want to get society back to a more normal semblance of what probably is the new normal, because this virus may be around… for months.”

 

However, National Health Commission official Liang Wannian warned that the situation in Wuhan remained “grim”.

 

Aylward praised China’s success so far in containing the virus but maintained that the main risk for any government was being too complacent.

He said:

 

“Thinking you’ve beaten this virus is the single biggest risk. As we dug into and came to understand the knowledge, the tools, the capacities they had built in China, it’s again our conclusion that this was the right thing to be doing.”

 

The spread of COVID-19 in other parts of the world has accelerated over the past week, with Iran, South Korea and Italy emerging as the worst new hotspots. Each of these countries reported deaths on Monday. Meanwhile, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait also announced their first cases of the virus.

 

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