World must act ‘to prevent a potential pandemic’ says WHO after Italy deaths

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Source : Euronews

Countries must act over the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak “to prevent a potential pandemic,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday as it called Italy’s sudden spike in deaths “deeply concerning.”

Italian authorities have confirmed five deaths from the virus as experts try to understand the biggest cluster of infections in any country outside Asia. Italy is the first EU member state to see citizens die from COVID-19; a 75-year-old woman from Lombardy died on Saturday, following the death of a man, 78, from Veneto.

The EU has pledged €230 million to fight the outbreak in Italy and elsewhere but said it would not yet impose restrictions on travel or trade.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom told reporters in Geneva that the epidemic has been “declining steadily” since peaking between January 23 and February 2.

He said the time was “not right” to declare COVID-19 a pandemic, saying it was already a public health emergency — the highest level of alarm.

“Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts,” he said, “but it certainly causes panic. Using the word won’t prevent a single infection or save a single life.”

The WHO has no evidence of “uncontained global spread,” he said, but COVID-19 “absolutely” has the potential to become a pandemic.

Authorities will continue to monitor the outbreak “while doing everything we can to prevent a potential pandemic,” he said, calling the cluster of deaths in Italy and South Korea “deeply concerning.”

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