A worker wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus in an eyeglass shop at a…
A worker wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus in an eyeglass shop at a department store in Seoul, South Korea, March 2, 2020.

GENEVA - The World Health Organization is urging countries affected by the coronavirus to enact containment measures as the best way to slow down the spread of this deadly disease.

While most of the nearly 89,000 cases of coronavirus are reported from China, WHO said Monday the virus appears to be declining there while it is accelerating elsewhere.

Outside China, South Korea is the most seriously affected country. The World Health Organization reports more than half of the more than 8,700 cases of coronavirus reported in countries outside China are in South Korea. WHO cites Italy, Iran and Japan as other countries of greatest concern.

COVID-19 a unique virus

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 is a unique virus with unique features. He said the virus is not influenza. He said it is a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission. At the same time, he notes  it can be contained with the right measures.

“If this was an influenza epidemic, we would have expected to see widespread community transmission across the globe by now,” Tedros said. “And efforts to slow it down or contain it would not be feasible. But containment of COVID-19 is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries.” 

Containment is key 

The executive director of WHO Health Emergencies Program, Michael Ryan, said containment will not get rid of the virus, but the strategy will buy governments precious time in which they can prepare for the possibility of an epidemic of this deadly disease within its borders.

“If we are lucky and if we do the job really well, we may get the opportunity, we just might get the opportunity to interrupt transmission,” Ryan said. “But at the very minimum, containment is allowing us to significantly slow down the spread of the virus, thereby giving an opportunity for health systems to prepare; for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to be made available, for training to take place, for laboratories to get reagents, for laboratory technicians to be trained.”  

WHO said the earlier countries take action to aggressively identify people who are sickened by coronavirus, the better the outcome. The world body said applying basic public health measures quickly and efficiently will save lives.

These measures include finding cases and tracing those who have come in contact with an infected person, managing people throughout the incubation period and providing adequate care to those in the hospital.

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