World

WHO seeking $675M US to respond to growing coronavirus outbreak

The World Health Organization is launching a major campaign to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, saying $675 million US is needed to help countries around the world prepare for and deal with virus.

Hong Kong says all visitors from mainland China will undergo 14-day quarantine

The World Health Organization says now is the time for evidence-based action and investment to fight the coronavirus. 0:30

The latest:

  • 12th known U.S. case confirmed in Wisconsin by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Vaccines will take more than a year to develop, drugmakers say.
  • Death toll in China rises to 563, up by 73.
  • WHO wants $675M US to help stamp out coronavirus outbreak.
  • Hong Kong says all visitors from mainland China will undergo 14-day quarantine.
  • 2 cruise ships under quarantine 1 off Japan, 1 in Hong Kong.
  • Canadians in Wuhan told flight out will be later than expected. 
  • B.C. reports a 2nd presumptive case of coronavirus. Woman in her 50s had been in contact with family members who had been in Hubei province, health officials say.

The World Health Organization is launching a major campaign to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, saying $675 million US is needed to help countries around the world prepare for and deal with the virus.

Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more must be done to help affected countries and prevent the spread of the virus, particularly to countries with weaker health infrastructure.

"The relatively small number of cases outside China gives us a window of opportunity to prevent this outbreak from becoming a broader global crisis," he said at a briefing from Geneva.

The director general outlined the organization's response, including efforts to send hundreds of thousands of masks and gloves to China, but he made it clear that a major infusion of funding is needed, saying: "Invest today, or pay more later."

"This is not a time for fear, this is not a time for panic," he said, adding that it is a time for rational, evidence-based decisions and investment in efforts to stamp out the virus. 

On Wednesday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would commit $100 million US to help stamp out the coronavirus outbreak. The money, which includes a previous commitment of $10 million, will go to efforts to detect cases, help patients and develop treatments and vaccines, the Seattle-based foundation said.

Asked about various reports of "drug breakthroughs," WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said that there are "no known effective therapeutics against this 2019-nCoV."

At least a dozen drugmakers are working on vaccines or antivirals and other treatments to help those infected with the fast-spreading contagion.

Investment costs for vaccines could run as high as $800 million US in a process that, even if accelerated, will likely take more than a year until approval, according to executives from companies involved in the effort.

"It will take at least 12 to 18 months, which means in the acute situation we are in now — at least in China — that will not create a benefit," said Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer of GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine unit. GSK is working with developers by providing a technology that could make their vaccines more potent.

Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO emergencies program, on Wednesday praised the efforts of front-line health workers in China, noting that doctors and nurses were coming into Hubei from around the country.

He called the move a "remarkable act" of solidarity that illustrates China's efforts to fight the outbreak.

A multi-national team with expertise in everything from virology to vaccine and drug development are expected to go to China soon, WHO officials said, without providing details on who would be on the team or exactly when they would arrive in China.

Hong Kong quarantine

The WHO update comes after Hong Kong's leader says all people entering from the mainland, including Hong Kong residents, will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine because of the coronavirus outbreak. Carrie Lam said the measure will take effect on Saturday to allow Hong Kong day travellers to make necessary arrangements.

She said the government is looking for more quarantine facilities in addition to three current camps.

Lam said the government has been vigilant and isn't shying away from introducing stringent measures to stem the spread of the virus. Thousands of medical workers have gone on strike in the territory to demand that the border with the mainland be completely shut. The city government has kept two crossings open, in part to allow food from the mainland to enter.

She also said two cruise terminals — including one where a cruise ship is currently under quarantine — will be shut down.

Another cruise ship is under quarantine at a Japanese port. Princess Cruises told CBC News that there were 251 Canadians on the Diamond Princess, which is currently off the Japanese coast. None of the Canadians tested positive for coronavirus in the first step of a screening process, an email from the company said.

Lam said she remains optimistic that the city can overcome the epidemic but urged all citizens to "put aside our differences and get our act together."

The WHO said Wednesday that 80 per cent of China's coronavirus cases are in central Hubei province, and not all provinces have been affected. 

Residents wearing masks and raincoats volunteer to take the temperatures of passengers at a bus stop at Tin Shui Wai, a border town in Hong Kong, on Tuesday. Everyone entering Hong Kong from mainland China will soon be subject to a 14-day quarantine. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

The outbreak is hitting Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways, which has asked its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave, saying conditions were as grave now as during the 2009 financial crisis.

American Airlines Group and United Airlines said they would suspend flights to and from Hong Kong after this week, a step that would leave no U.S. carriers flying passengers to the Asian financial hub.

Death toll rises by 73

As of Wednesday, another 73 people on the Chinese mainland died from the outbreak, bringing the total death toll to 563, the country's health authority said.

The National Health Commission said another 3,887 cases were reported throughout the country, bringing the total to 28,018.

Hubei province, the epicentre of the epidemic, earlier reported 70 deaths on Wednesday, and 2,987 new confirmed cases — more than 80 per cent of the total.

The other fatalities on Wednesday were in the city of Tianjin, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang and Guizhou province in the southwest.

In addition, Hong Kong has had 17 cases, including one death. Macao has had 10 cases.

In Singapore, the health ministry said Wednesday that officials there had confirmed four more cases — including parents and their six-month-old baby. That brings the country's total to 28. This comes after Singapore on Tuesday reported its first cases of citizens and residents who had contracted the virus without recent travel to China, where the outbreak first surfaced at the end of last year.

Evidence of human-to-human spread outside China surfaced after an international business gathering in Singapore in January was linked to virus cases reported in Malaysia and South Korea, but authorities did not comment on the nature of the conference or the industry involved.

WATCH: What we actually know about the coronavirus

Information about the coronavirus outbreak is spreading fast, but what do we actually know about the illness? CBC News medical contributor and family physician Dr. Peter Lin breaks down the facts about what it is, where it came from, how it spreads and what you can do to protect yourself. 5:10

Singapore was one of the worst hit countries outside China in the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) with 33 deaths. 

Meanwhile in Canada, Health officials in British Columbia announced on Tuesday a second presumptive coronavirus case. Dr. Bonnie Henry said the most recent suspected case is a woman in her 50s who lives in the Vancouver area. Members of her family had been in Hubei province, Henry said.

The family members have been minimizing contact with people outside the woman's home, where they are staying. Henry said the woman is isolated and in stable condition at home and Vancouver Coastal Health is following up with anyone the woman has been in contact with.

If the B.C. case is confirmed by the national testing laboratory in Winnipeg, it would be Canada's fifth confirmed case. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk in Canada from coronavirus is low. 

The 12th known U.S. case has been confirmed in Wisconsin by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state health agency said in a statement.

The patient was identified only as an adult with a history of travel to Beijing, China's capital, prior to becoming ill, and was exposed to other known cases while in China, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said.

With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press and Reuters

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