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No need for 'blanket measures' on virus: WHO

2020-02-18 HKT 01:23
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  • Michael Ryan and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the new virus was less deadly than other coronaviruses. Photo: AP
    Michael Ryan and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the new virus was less deadly than other coronaviruses. Photo: AP
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday warned against "blanket measures" over the novel coronavirus outbreak, pointing out the epidemic outside China was only affecting a "tiny" proportion of the population.

It also said that – with a mortality rate of around 2 per cent – Covid-19 was "less deadly" than other coronaviruses such as Sars or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers).

WHO officials rejected the suggestion that all cruises should be halted to avoid risking a new nest of infection like the one on the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess off Japan.

"Measures should be taken proportional to the situation. Blanket measures may not help," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

The outbreak, which has infected some 70,500 people in China and killed over 1,700, has battered manufacturing and tourism across the region and led to multiple travel restrictions including for flights and cruises.

"If we are going to disrupt every cruise ship in the world on the off chance that there might be some potential contact with some potential pathogen then where do we stop?" said Michael Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies programme.

Ryan said that even at the epicentre of the crisis in the city of Wuhan in central Hubei Province, the "attack rate" – a measure of the speed of spread of the virus – was four per 100,000.

"This is a very serious outbreak and it has the potential to grow, but we need to balance that in terms of the number of people infected. Outside Hubei this epidemic is affecting a very, very tiny, tiny proportion of people," he said. (AFP)