GENEVA - The director-general of the World Health Organization is urging countries not to close their borders to foreigners traveling from China, in response to the coronavirus epidemic in that country. More than 17,000 cases, including 361 deaths have been confirmed in China.
The WHO chief made his appeal at the opening of the agency’s Executive Board, which meets annually to set WHO health policy.
The United States, Australia, Singapore and a growing number of other countries are denying entry to foreigners traveling from China in an effort to limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says 151 cases of the disease and one death have been confirmed in 23 countries outside China. He says this small number of cases can be managed without countries resorting to extreme measures.
"There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent. WHO stands ready to provide advice to any country that is considering which measures to take,” Tedros said.
Last week, WHO declared the coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and issued several recommendations to prevent and limit the further spread of the virus.
Tedros said the disease was mainly declared a global health threat out of concern that countries with weaker health systems would have difficulty in containing the virus, which can spread from person to person.
As such, he said one of the recommendations is for international support to countries with fragile health systems. He said other recommendations include efforts to accelerate the development of vaccines and medicines, as well as measures to combat the spread of rumors and misinformation.
"Review preparedness plans, identify gaps and evaluate the resources needed to identify, isolate and care for cases, and prevent transmission…Both the coronavirus…preparedness, not panic.”
Tedros said only solidarity and cooperation among all countries will defeat the coronavirus outbreak. He said everyone is in this together and the only way to stop the virus from spreading is by working together.