By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) - World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that a sudden increase in cases of the new coronavirus known as COVID-19 in Italy, Iran and South Korea is “deeply concerning".
The remarks of Tedros came at a briefing for the heads of mission to the UN Office at Geneva.
“The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning,” said Tedros.
He said there are cases linked to Iran in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman and that there are now also cases linked to Italy in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland.
The WHO head said a lot had changed in the past week illustrating the “rapidly evolving nature” of the epidemic.
As of 6 a.m. Geneva's local time (0500GMT) Wednesday, China reported 78,190 cases to WHO, including more than 2,700 deaths.
On Tuesday, only 10 new cases were reported in China outside of Hubei province.
“But this is no time for complacency. This is a time for continued vigilance,” said Tedros.
He reported to the diplomats that a WHO-China joint mission had concluded a visit to China on Monday and delivered its report after traveling to several different provinces, including Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
They found that the epidemic peaked and plateaued in Jan. 23-Feb. 2, and has been declining steadily since then.
There has been no significant change in the DNA of the virus, said the WHO.
The team also estimated that the measures taken in China have averted a significant number of cases.
“But the key message that should give all countries hope, courage and confidence is that this virus can be contained,” said Tedros.
Indeed, there are many countries that have exactly done that: 14 countries that have had cases have not reported a case for more than a week, and even more importantly, nine countries -- Belgium, Cambodia, Finland, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka and Sweden -- have not reported a case for more than two weeks.
“But that doesn’t mean that cases may not come back to these countries. But the cases that made it before have been contained,” said the WHO director general.