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World: WHO Director-General s remarks at the media briefing on COVID-2019 outbreak on 14 February 2020

Source: World Health Organization Country: China, World
Good afternoon everyone. I am speaking to you from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where I have met with President Tshisekedi, ministers, UN colleagues and other partners – to review the impressive progress that has been made toward ending the Ebola outbreak, and to talk about future plans to ensure that everyone in the DRC can access quality health services going forward. I have been impressed with the commitment of President Tshisekedi and his government to ending the outbreak in eastern DRC and I would like to urge the whole world to recommit to getting to zero Ebola cases. But it is also vitally important that resources and attention focus on strengthening the country’s health system and bolstering preparedness. Whether it’s Ebola or COVID-19, investing in preparedness is the smartest way to ensure disease outbreaks are identified and stopped quickly. I am glad to say that countries around the world are in a better state of preparedness for COVID-19 than they were just a week ago, and WHO’s efforts to help countries boost their lab capacity continue. Now the latest numbers on the COVID-19 outbreak. As you know, China has changed the way it reports data from Hubei province. There are now a total of 47,505 laboratory-confirmed cases in China, and 16,427 cases that have been clinically-confirmed in Hubei province. While it’s not uncommon in outbreaks for case definitions to change over time as more information becomes available, we are seeking further clarity on how clinical diagnosis is being made, to ensure other respiratory illnesses including influenza are not getting mixed into the COVID-19 data. In total, there have been 1,381 deaths in China, including 121 reported today. Outside China, there have been 505 cases in 24 countries and two deaths. The vice minister of the national health commission has said that as of Tuesday 1716 health care workers have been infected, and six have died. This is a critical piece of information, because health workers are the glue that holds the health system and outbreak response together. But we need to know more about this figure, including the time period and circumstances in which the health workers became sick. WHO guidelines have been developed for health workers taking care of hospitalised adults and paediatric patients with acute infections. These guidelines have been made available to all countries. As I said the other day, we have been in regular contact with suppliers, asking them to prioritize production and distribution of personal protective equipment to health workers on the front lines. We are also in touch with Member States on this important issue. I’m glad to say that the WHO-led Joint Mission with China on COVID-19 is moving forward. We expect the full team to touch down over the weekend. The mission consists of 12 international and WHO experts and a similar number of national expert counterparts from the People’s Republic of China. The Joint Mission will include in-depth workshops, a data review with the principal ministries, a series of meetings with key national-level institutions and field visits in three provinces to understand the application and impact of response activities at provincial and county levels, including urban and rural settings. The goal of the joint mission is to rapidly inform the next steps in the COVID-19 response and preparedness activities in China and globally. Particular attention will be paid to understanding the transmission of the virus, the severity of disease, and the impact of ongoing response measures. Furthermore, it will be important to review which type of information is needed so that the world can use this window of opportunity to prepare health systems and workers for possible outbreaks. Clearly this is an evolving picture. Health workers and responders in China are working with virtually no sleep in difficult conditions. But we need to ensure that we’re getting the most accurate data, as quickly as possible, to assist China and support the global response. We’re working with our Chinese counterparts on these issues, and this is also part of the scope of work for the WHO-led joint mission with China. Finally, I wish to thank Cambodia for demonstrating to the world the meaning of solidarity. While other countries turned away the Westerdam cruise ship, Cambodia allowed it to dock. Today hundreds of passengers are disembarking and are en route to their home countries. 20 passengers who reported signs of illness have tested negative for the COVID-19 virus. I hope that other countries will follow Cambodia’s lead. Lastly, I want to say again, from my heart, that this is the time for solidarity, not stigma. There are worrying signs that the world is not hearing the call for unity and standing in unison with those at the epicenter in China who are saving lives and alleviating suffering. I thank you.


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