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WHO chief says widespread travel bans not needed to beat virus

By AI HEPING in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-02-04 04:41 菲律宾申博太阳城官网
Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference after a meeting of the Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland, on Jan 30, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The head of the World Health Organization said on Monday there was no need for measures that "unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade" in trying to halt the spread of a coronavirus that has killed 361 people in China, and he lauded China's efforts to contain it.

"We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the WHO executive board in Geneva, reiterating his message from last week when he declared an international emergency.

Tedros said that China was using the right strategy of focusing its efforts on the hardest-hit places and slowing the spread, which he described as "small."

China is "protecting the Chinese people and protecting the rest of the world," he said. "Because of this strategy and if it weren't for China, the number of cases outside China would have been very much higher."

"It's no reason to really panic now," he said. "The chances of getting this going to anywhere outside China is very low, and even in China, when you go to other provinces, it's very low."

Referring to the virus' spread abroad, Tedros said it was "minimal and slow", while warning that it could worsen.

China's delegate took the floor at the WHO executive board and denounced measures by "some countries" that have denied entry to people holding passports issued in Hubei province -- at the center of the outbreak -- and to deny visas and cancel flights.

"All these measures are seriously against recommendation by the WHO," said Li Song, who is China's ambassador for disarmament at the United Nations in Geneva.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying accused the US of catalyzing public fear surrounding the coronavirus through its evacuations of US citizens from China and ban on Chinese travelers to the country.

A WHO spokesman said on Monday that the organization could lead a team of experts to China as early as this week to investigate the coronavirus outbreak.

"A multidisciplinary mission of international experts to China will take place, possibly this week. Both China and WHO agreed on this mission,'' said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

"The mission is an international technical mission led by WHO. As such, CDC could be part of it," he said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from the US.

The experts would have a range of specializations, including epidemiology, laboratories, research and development, and would work with Chinese counterparts to help guide global response efforts, he said.

Colin McIff, a senior official at the US Department of Health, told Reuters in Geneva on Monday at WHO headquarters, that "conversations are ongoing'' about American medical experts joining the WHO-led technical mission.

There have been 17,238 confirmed infections in China including 361 deaths, as well as 151 confirmed cases in 23 countries and 1 death which was reported from the Philippines on Sunday, Tendros added.

The United States recorded its 11th case of the coronavirus, with a couple from central California falling ill after the husband's trip to China's Hubei province at the epicenter of the outbreak.

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