WHO says China taking 'extraordinary measures' in response to coronavirus outbreak
World is at an 'important juncture,' says WHO's executive director of health emergencies
The World Health Organization's emergencies chief told reporters on Wednesday that China was taking "extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge" posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
"We are at an important juncture in this event. We believe these chains of transmission can still be interrupted," said Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme who accompanied the body's chief on a trip to China this week.
"They are taking extraordinary measures in the face of what is an extraordinary challenge," he said, referring to China.
The Geneva-based body will reconvene its emergency committee on Thursday, the third time in a week, to evaluate whether the coronavirus outbreak now constitutes an international emergency.
The committee, comprising 16 independent experts, twice last week declined to declare a global emergency.
The person-to-person spread of the new coronavirus in three countries — Germany, Vietnam and Japan — is worrying and will be considered by experts reconvened to consider declaring a global emergency, the WHO said on Wednesday.
To date, about 99 per cent of the more than 6,000 cases are in China. Ryan estimated the death rate of the new virus at two per cent, but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it's likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.
In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10 per cent of people who caught it.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he was "was very encouraged and impressed by the president's detailed knowledge of the outbreak and his personal involvement in the outbreak. This for me is real leadership."
Tedros, asked about an international team to be sent to China, said it would be composed of WHO staff, and countries should make "bilateral arrangements" to send their own experts.
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He would like to reform the current system for declaring international emergencies to have a three-phase system.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had spoken with Xi and that the two countries were working very closely on the outbreak.
"We're very much involved with them right now on the virus that's going around … I spoke to President Xi. We're working very closely with China," Trump said at a White House ceremony to sign a new North American trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
With files from The Associated Press