Coronavirus ‘worse than terrorism’; first vaccine 18 months away
The WHO said that the official name for the disease caused by the new coronavirus is “Covid-19”.
As the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has crossed 1,000 with tens of thousands of people infected, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of a global threat potentially “worse than terrorism”.
The world must "wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters, adding the first vaccine was 18 months away.
The WHO also said that the official name for the disease caused by the new coronavirus is “Covid-19”.
"We now have a name for the disease and it's Covid-19," Ghebreyesus said, adding that the world needs to fight the new virus as aggressively as possible.
This comes as China’s senior medical adviser Zhong Nanshan on Tuesday said that the coronavirus outbreak in China may be over by April.
He claimed that numbers of new cases were falling in some provinces and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.
"I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April," Zhong, an epidemiologist who played a role in combating an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003, told Reuters.
“Worst enemy you can imagine”
Tedros was less sanguine about the coronavirus, now officially named COVID-19 - CO for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year it emerged. World health organizations wanted a name that did not refer to a location or animal.
"To be honest a virus is more powerful in creating political, social and economic upheaval than any terrorist attack," he said. "It's the worst enemy you can imagine."
The impact of travel curbs, lockdowns and production suspensions is being felt increasingly on China's economy.
World stocks, which had seen rounds of sell-offs over the coronarvirus' impact on China's economy and its ripple effects, surged to record highs on Zhong's comments. The Dow industrials, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all hit new peaks.
Even if the epidemic ends soon, it has already taken a toll on China's economy, as companies began laying off workers and other firms said they would need loans running into billions of dollars to stay afloat. Supply chains for car manufacturers to smartphone makers have broken down.
Chinese health officials on Wednesday said that the death toll has gone up to 1,113 with 97 new fatalities reported mostly in the worst-affected Hubei province while the confirmed cases of infection jumped to 44,653.
Statistics from China indicate about 2% of people infected with the new virus have died, and many had pre-existing medical conditions or were elderly. But the spread of the virus, which can lead to pneumonia, has already caused widespread disruption.
Cruise ships quarantined
Off Japan's port of Yokohama, the Diamond Princess cruise ship with 3,700 passengers and crew remained quarantined, with the number of confirmed cases at 135 -- the largest single cluster of cases outside China.
Thailand said it had barred passengers from getting off another ship, Holland America Line's MS Westerdam, though no confirmed infections have been found on board.
Hubei -- where the flu-like virus emerged in China from a wildlife market in the provincial capital of Wuhan -- remains in virtual lockdown, its stations and airports shut and roads blocked.
With public anger rising, Hubei's government dismissed the provincial health commission's Communist Party boss, Zhang Jin, and director Liu Yingzi, state media reported.
Washington, whose travel restrictions have offended Beijing, authorized the voluntary departure of US government employees and family members from Chinese-ruled Hong Kong "out of an abundance of caution," the State Department said.