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WHO Seeks Hundreds of Millions of Dollars to Prevent Spread of Coronavirus

FILE - Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus at the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 29, 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is appealing for $675 million to prevent the global spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The agency reports 24,363 cases and 490 deaths inside China, as well as 191 cases and two deaths outside of mainland China.

WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the small number of cases and deaths circulating around the world provides a window of opportunity to prevent the coronavirus outbreak from becoming a wider global crisis.

"Our greatest concern is about the potential for spreading in countries with weaker health systems and who lack the capacity to detect or diagnose the virus," he said. "We are only as strong as the weakest link."

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WHO has released $9 million from its emergency fund, to be used to provide essential supplies to countries at risk. These include half a million masks, more than 350,000 gloves, and tens of thousands of respirators, gowns, and diagnostic tests.

But Tedros says much more has to be done to help shore up health systems in developing countries. He says the multimillion-dollar strategic response plan will support vulnerable countries to prevent, detect and diagnose onward transmission.

"Our message to the international community is invest today or pay more later ... $675 million U.S. dollars is a lot of money, but it is much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now, during the window of opportunity that we have," he said.