Wealthy countries have been urged to invest more funds to the global fight against coronavirus or ‘face the consequences later’.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for $675 million (approx £520m) in donations for a plan to fight the deadly disease, which has killed almost 500 people, mainly through investment in countries considered particularly ‘at risk’.
The international health body said this may seem like ‘a lot of money’ but is much less ‘than the bill we face if we do not invest in preparedness now’.
Speaking at a technical briefing today, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for greater solidarity among the international community, and criticised governments for being ‘well behind’ in sharing data on virus cases.
His words of warning came after the National Health Commission said the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China had reached 490 – a rise in 65 people in one day.
The fatalities were all recorded in Hubei, the epicentre of the the outbreak where millions of people are on lockdown and severe transport restrictions have been imposed.
Dr Tedros praised the Chinese authorities for this response, saying it gave countries a ‘window of opportunity’ to stop it becoming a broader global crisis.
However, Chinese leaders have themselves admitted shortfalls in their efforts to contain the disease, amid accusations they initially downplayed the virus and tried to keep it a secret.
At least eight people were arrested for alerting their friends and family to the epidemic, including a doctor in Wuhan, where the virus emerged at a seafood marked in early December.
Now, a further 24,324 people in mainland China have been infected by the pneumonia-like illness, which has spread to 25 countries and killed two people overseas (one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.)
Countries around the world have rushed to evacuate their citizens from Hubei and Wuhan, while many have also imposed extraordinary travel restrictions on travellers to and from China.
Dr Tedros today reiterated his call for countries not to impose travel and trade restrictions on places with high infection rates, instead urging them to help detect the disease.
He said:’My biggest worry is that there are countries today who do not have the systems in place to detect people who have contracted with the virus, even if it were to emerge.
‘Urgent support is needed to bolster weak health systems to detect, diagnose and care for people with the virus, to prevent further human to human transmission and protect health workers.’
The WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan lays out activities and resources needed by international health organisations globally.
Objectives include limiting human-to-human transmission of the virus, communicate critical risk and event information, minimise social and economic impact, reduce virus spread from animal sources and and address crucial unknowns.